The Justice Ministry will not be able to apply Israeli labor laws in the West
Bank by the end of the year, despite a January 1 deadline, the Knesset Public
Petitions Committee learned Tuesday.
In a meeting on Palestinian workers’
rights, Economy Ministry representative Riki Yehezkel explained that the
ministry cannot check if Palestinian workers in Jewish businesses in the West
Bank receive Israeli minimum wage, as required by law, because the Justice
Ministry has yet to declare which other labor laws apply to the
Public Petitions Committee chairwoman MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid)
expressed outrage at “government offices allowing clear violations of workers’
basic rights,” demanding that the situation be changed.
working within the Green Line enjoy the same labor laws as Israelis; however,
Israeli law does not generally apply to residents of Judea and Samaria,
regardless of their ethnicity, and each law has to be applied individually by an
order from the IDF, which governs the West Bank.
The government ordered
the Justice Ministry to determine how the IDF will apply labor laws to the West
Bank by January 1, but the ministry told the committee it is unable to do so in
One such law is maternity leave, which MK Orit Struck (Bayit
Yehudi) tried to apply to the area via legislation, but was told would be put in
the care of the ministry and the IDF, instead Following a 2007 court order, the
minimum wage law is already supposed to apply.
“It cannot be that
Palestinian laborers work under slave-like conditions just because ministries
can’t handle the schedule they gave themselves,” Kol said.
Kol pointed to
petitions she received from Palestinian workers, who say their employers require
them to pay NIS 2,000 a month to receive work permits, even though the employers
are supposed to pay the fee. The Economy and Trade Ministry said it hasn’t
received any complaints on the matter.
Lt.-Col. Yair Maman, head of
economic arrangements in the West Bank, said 52,000 Palestinians are given
permits to work in sovereign Israel, some permanently and some seasonally for
agriculture. In addition, another 33,000 work illegally. Within the West Bank,
25,000 Palestinians are employed by Israelis.
The average daily wage for
a Palestinian worker is NIS 168.
“That number is based on the minimum
wage they’re supposed to make,” MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said of the average
salary. “Who’s enforcing it?” Yehezkel said, “The Economy Minister enforces
minimum wage if it receives complaints, but does not initiate enforcement. Over
the last two years we investigated 25 complaints over the Green Line, but the
only labor law we can enforce is minimum wage.
Chana Zohar of the NGO
Workers’ Hotline said: “Minimum wage law clearly applies to Palestinians and yet
there’s a terrible situation in the Jordan Valley, where workers make NIS 8- 12
an hour without any other rights. One in four Palestinians pays his employer NIS
1,500-2,000 a month for work permits.”
Kol plans to send letters to the
Justice and Defense Ministries to demand that they work more quickly to expand
labor laws to Judea and Samaria, and will hold a follow-up meeting on the matter
in a month.
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