Palestinian government workers plan three-day strike

World sanctions on Hamas stop employees from getting salaries; will consider striking indefinitely if situation doesn't improve.

Mustafa Barghouti 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
Mustafa Barghouti 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian government workers launched a three-day strike on Wednesday to protest overdue salaries. The Palestinian government employs 175,000 civil servants, whose salaries provide for one-quarter of the Palestinians. But it has struggled to pay salaries since violently anti-Israel Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006, provoking an international aid cutoff and the withholding of some $600 million (€450 million) in tax transfers from Israel. The formation in March of a coalition between Hamas and the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has failed to persuade most countries to renew aid because the new government did not renounce violence or recognize Israel's right to exist. The sanctions have deepened the poverty in Palestinian areas and badly disrupted government services, leading to periodic strikes. Workers will stay off the job on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday because the government has paid only one-quarter of its employees' salaries in the past 60 days, said Bassam Zakarneh, the head of the civil servants' union. Government offices are closed on Thursday and Friday, the Palestinian weekend. Teachers and Ministry of Education employees will not participate in the strike because they have already been paid to complete the school year, Zakarneh said. Medical workers already have been on strike for 85 days, with a small number of employees taking only emergency cancer and kidney cases, he added. Zakarneh said the union would consider striking indefinitely if the situation did not improve. Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti said the government would not be able to pay salaries until the sanctions are lifted. "If the siege continues and the strikes also continue, this will threaten the whole Authority with collapse, not just the government," Barghouti cautioned.