Organising and empowering in the West Bank

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Palestine project update

prepared by Vicky Cann

January 2010

'Now I realise the importance of unions and I have begun to know my rights at my worksite.' This is the verdict of Palestinian factory worker Nedaa AL Zaher, after attending a recent TUC-supported training session run by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

Since October 2009 when the workshops started in targeted workplaces across the West Bank, the PGFTU has organised six workshops for 150 workers covering such issues as child labour, solving conflict, gender relations, and organising.

Nedaa Al ZaherNedaa AL Zaher is 38 years old, married with five sons. Nedaa has worked at a cosmetics factory since 2005 as a secretary, but before she participated in the workshop, she had not been a member of a trade union and had not been in contact with her workplace representative. She says, 'When I was invited to attend the workshop organised by the PGFTU, I accepted without hesitation because I knew that many of my colleagues had attended similar causes and they encouraged me to participate. I attended the workshop; it was amazing and something new in my life, as the workshop has increased my ability to get involved in workplace discussions.'

The training session Nedaa attended was called 'Rights and Freedoms' and she says: 'I now feel satisfied that there is a representative of workers at my workplace who can defend my rights or solve my problems. He is a person who I can rely on so I decided to become a member of the union.'

Nedaa explained to Fathi Nasser, the PGFTU's legal advisor and the training coordinator that the workshop she attended has really boosted her knowledge and awareness of the International Labour Organisation and important conventions such as the rights to organise and to collectively bargain, and how they relate to her in her own workplace. She specifically mentions to Fathi the importance of electing union representatives.

Asked about how she would use her new-found knowledge back in the factory where she works, Nedaa said, 'I'm now a member of the union. I will use the new knowledge in my daily life and at the worksite to defend my rights according to the labor codes and collective agreements. My contacts with my employer, my union representative and with my colleagues will change for the positive. In the future, I hope these contacts will be based on cooperation, exchanging views and sharing responsibility. Overall, I am hopeful that my position at work will change dramatically.'

Nedaa is one of 45 workers to have joined a trade union since attending the PGFTU training. The training is taking place at targeted workplaces across the West Bank and it covers workers in the agriculture, public services, finance, petrochemicals, textiles and printing sectors. This work is possible thanks to a TUC Aid appeal, generously supported by British trade unions during 2009. The training programme will continue into Spring 2010.

'Thanks to this PGFTU project supported by the TUC, I have made an important jump in my life', says Nedaa.

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