Campaigning for Decent Work across Palestine
'We have succeeded in reducing the working day by half an hour. From the experience, I realise that big achievements begin by small steps. That was the accumulated knowledge that I have learnt from the TUC project,' says Saed Zubaidy, one of the participants in the TUC Aid funded project that has just been completed with the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).
Saed Zubaidy is one of 300 working people to attend PGFTU-organised workshop, held as part of this TUC project. While he was already a trade union member, he had not previously been interested in standing as a workplace representative in the telecommunications company where he worked.
'At the time, I had no idea about rights and freedoms of unions, nor about the importance of being a representative of workers. But during my participation in the workshop, I began to realize the importance of engaging in discussions and getting new knowledge. This has encouraged me to play an active role in the union. I realized that something had changed in my personality and abilities. I felt stronger and now had the ability to convince. I decided that I had these skills and must use them in my practical life'.
This project was about inspiring existing trade unionists to get more involved in their unions and campaigning for better rights in the workplace, as well as encouraging new working people to join trade unions. At the end of the four-month project, at least 300 workers (including 153 women) better understand their rights as a result of attending training on rights and freedoms, solving workplace conflicts, child labour, gender, organising workers, labour laws and collective bargaining. One hundred and twenty new members have joined the participating unions in targeted worksites across the Palestinian West Bank, 56 of them women including Nedaa Al Zaher, enabling them to benefit from union services and negotiations. Three unions across 18 worksites have elected new workplace committees.
And Saed has been elected onto one of these workplace committees. He continues: 'At the beginning of this year and inspired by the PGFTU/ TUC activities, the union decided to elect representatives and to adopt a new constitution, in cooperation with the PGFTU legal advisor. I decided to be a candidate in my sector and not only was I elected but I got high votes.'
And these committees are now actively working to improve the working conditions of their workplace colleagues. Saed says, 'Being a representative is not an easy duty but I admire this democratic process which will lead to develop our work conditions and to have more decent work.'
'During the first two months since our elections, we have negotiated with the employer on two points - to reduce half an hour from the working day for women and to have two days off a week. We succeeded in reducing the working day by half an hour for women, while workers now have both Friday and Saturday off each week which is excellent in the private sector. From the experience, I realise that big achievements begin by small steps. That was the accumulated knowledge that I have learnt from the TUC project.'
TUC Aid supporters from affiliates across Britain generously supported this successful project via individual, branch and union donations. The TUC continues to collaborate with the PGFTU and is currently exploring with them other, future areas for joint cooperation.
Issued: 5 May, 2010