Thousands of Palestinian gov't workers protest unpaid salaries

Demonstrators fill a large cooking pot with stones, to illustrate the workers' increasingly dire situation.

palestinian protest 88 (photo credit: )
palestinian protest 88
(photo credit: )
Thousands of Palestinian government workers rallied outside the Cabinet building Tuesday, demanding they be paid their salaries, already three months overdue. It was the largest workers' protest since Hamas came to power in March. The Hamas government has been unable to pay its 165,000 employees since March because of crippling international sanctions. "Until when?" read a sign carried by workers in the Ramallah protest. Others filled a large cooking pot with stones, to illustrate the workers' increasingly dire situation. Many Palestinians have been scraping by on savings and handouts, but poverty in the Palestinian areas is deepening. The public workers' salaries provide for one-third of the Palestinians. Tuesday's protest was organized by the Palestinian Authority Employees Union, an organization considered sympathetic to Fatah. The head of the union, Bassam Zakarneh, said he has sent a letter to the government, demanding payment of the salaries. Hamas needs about $160 million a month to cover the public payroll and government operating costs. The government has not paid the salaries of March, April and May. Zakarneh said the employees would soon step up their protests and hold strikes. One of the protesters, Mohammed Taleb, said he could no longer provide for his 11 children and was living from handouts. "They forgot us. They are busy with politics," said Taleb, an employee in the Transportation Ministry. Khotam Baker, an employee in the Education Ministry, said her daughter's private school refused to admit her to matriculation exams because she owed the school $500.