PA workers still on wages strike at Sol-Or factory

The striking workers say they are only paid NIS 90 per eight-hour work day.

By
October 21, 2010 05:36
3 minute read.

For the second day in a row, Palestinian workers at an Israeli-owned factory on the Green Line remained on strike Wednesday, following what they say is management’s refusal to pay them the Israeli minimum wage.

The striking workers say they are only paid NIS 90 per eight-hour work day. The “Sol-Or” factory at the Nitzanei Shalom industrial zone, located between the Nitzanei Oz and the West Bank city of Tulkarm, employs some 70 workers, virtually all of them Palestinians from within the Palestinian Authority.

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In 2008, the High Court of Justice issued a ruling that Israeli businesses operating in the West Bank must pay the Israeli minimum wage to Palestinian workers. The striking workers are requesting as well to get the pay returned to them retroactively, according to the time in which they law went into effect. Workers at the factory held a strike in 2007 to deal with the same complaints, but did not reach an agreement with management.

Workers are demanding not only that they receive the minimum wage, but that they receive it retroactively for the time since the court ruling was issued in 2008.

One of the protesting workers, Fahri, has worked at the factory for 10 years and still receives NIS 90 per day.

“I have worked there for 10 years and still only receive 90 shekels a day,” he said. “I’ve always had good relations with the managers; all I want is to receive the minimum wage and I’ll be happy.”

Fahri added that the management offered to reach compromises with the workers, but only on an individual basis, without a lawyer present.

The work at the Sol-Or factory involves cleaning gas containers, which presents a series of health risks for employees.

The workers must check that the containers are clean, which requires them to smell the Methyl Bromide gas, often leading to dry throats and nausea.

Many of the workers have also suffered from damage to their eyesight and respiratory systems from exposure to the gas.

Attorney Ahmad Najib of Umm al-Fahm, who is representing the workers, said that many of the striking employees have been working at the factory for up to 15 years and have never received the wages they deserve according to Israeli law.

“We wrote them a letter giving them a week to correct the problem or we will go on strike. They are the only factory we know of in Israel that doesn’t pay the minimum wage,” Najib said, adding that Sol-Or doesn’t pay their workers national insurance either.

Najib added that he didn’t regard the work stoppage as a strike per se, rather a disruption of the plant’s operations.

In a statement issued by Sol- Or this week, the company did not respond to the matter of salaries or work conditions, saying instead that “for the past two months, a small number of the workers at the Sol-Or factory have been threatening and exerting pressure on other employees.”

The statement added that the threats reached their zenith on October 19th, when a group of employees came to work in the morning and found their path blocked by another group of workers who pushed and threatened them until they left. The company has further accused Al Najib and outside forces of engineering the work stoppage and driving a wedge between workers through threats and harassment.

“We will not give in to extortion or threats of physical violence and will continue to work in accordance with the law in order to protect the workers and allow them to continue to have a workplace in the future,” Sol-Or added.


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