On January 1st, 2021, when the world was celebrating the new year, 75 Palestinian workers at the Israeli settlement factory of Yamit Sinoun started an open strike demanding the company to respect their rights. The company produces water filtration systems for the global market and the striking workers demand human-like working conditions, better wages, paid sick leave and holidays, and a pension fund that preserves their money. For seven days of strike in a row, the company refuses to meet these demands.
The Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions (New Unions) calls on the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and trade unions internationally and human rights groups to support the just strike of the workers, to build a boycott of Yamit factory and to increase the momentum of solidarity with Palestinian struggle to dismantle Israeli apartheid system.
This strike is not the first of its kind; rather, it comes as a response to the Yamit corporation’s refusal to abide by the terms of an agreement to negotiate with workers following a strike they carried out for 20 days last November.
Prior to that, in 2007, the workers held a strike to demand higher wages and the provision of awareness raising workshops about how the workers should protect themselves in their dangerous workplace. This strike was preceded by another one in 1998, where the workers demanded basic rights such as an improvement on the dire working conditions and being provided with protection for them at work.
The current strike is being coordinated by a committee of five workers working in the factory and supported by the Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions;
Khalil Shehab, one of the striking workers and a member of the workers’ committee leading the strike has been working in the factory since 1995. He commented:
“Although this is not the first strike of its kind, the arrogant Israeli employer has been refusing to give us the same rights Israeli workers enjoy. We are carrying out this strike because we want to be treated as humans rather than as chattel slaves with no rights. We are not slaves as the era of chattel slavery has ended. Our demands are simple and basic. We need protection at the dangerous workplace, especially amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, paid sick leaves and holidays like Israeli workers, higher wages and a pension fund that ensures that our money is kept for us until we retire. In 2016, the company forced us to sign an agreement that has frozen the contribution of more money to our pension fund; the frozen amount of money was about a million dollars. We realized afterwards that the company has spent half of our frozen pension money.”