Gaza Public Employees Launch Strike in Renewed Unpaid Salaries Protest

The public workers union in the Gaza Strip announced that a general strike would be in effect Thursday across all public institutions in protest against the government’s continued to failure to pay salaries to tens of thousands of employees of the former Hamas government.

The strike announcement signals a renewed determination by public workers to pressure the Fatah-Hamas unity government to address the simmering crisis over the workers, whose future has been uncertain since the April 2014 unity deal.

Union spokesman Khalil al-Zayyan said that the strike is being held in protest against the government’s lack of commitment to agreements made previously with the public workers’ union.

He said that the union holds the government responsible for all the negative repercussions of the strike and other measures taken by the union in protest.

He also vowed that workers would continue their struggle and not allow anyone to “politically blackmail” and manipulate them.

Although the establishment of a unity government in June ended seven years of political division between Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, key issues such as the payment of workers employed by the previous Hamas-led government in Gaza were not settled.

Since the political division between Hamas and Fatah began in 2007, Hamas ran a separate government in the Gaza Strip with its own civil service of around 50,000.

During this time, however, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority continued paying its 70,000 employees in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that the PA was no longer operative.

Since the unity agreement was signed, it has been unclear who will pay the employees of the former Hamas government. Although Qatar stepped in for a few months, until now both Hamas and Fatah have blamed each other.

As a result, tens of thousands of employees have been working without steady salaries, while the fear of being summarily fired and being replaced with the former PA government employees has provoked anger.

In December, meanwhile, Israel froze some $127 million in tax funds owed to the PA in revenge for the PA’s decision to join the International Criminal Court.

The move has added to the lack of funds facing Palestinian authorities, and has led to major salary problems for even recognized employees of the PA.

(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)

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