Largest Palestinian Workers Union Declared Illegal

A committee set up by President Mahmoud Abbas has found the union of public sector employees has no legal standing, six years after it first started representing government workers.

The committee report, of which Ma’an obtained a copy, concludes: "There is no legal body or organized legal framework for the so-called ‘public sector workers union’."

The report says the committee hopes to "respond to irresponsibility in the civil and public services which is caused by the unilateral decisions taken by the union council officials."

It also calls for measures to correct "the harm inflicted on the Fatah leadership through media statements and opposition to PA policies, and creation of a state of chaos and confusion in Palestinian public opinion, and calling into question the abilities of the PA in world opinion."

Abbas set up the committee last week amid increasingly fractious relations with its chief Bassem Zakarneh.

When the president swore in a new cabinet in the West Bank two weeks ago, Zakarneh remarked: "Adding flowers to the body of an ugly woman won’t change her ugliness," before pledging new strike action.

The new government was also slammed by political opponents Hamas for forming while a unity cabinet with their party was still pending.

Zakarneh also had a public spat with Yasser Abed Rabbo, who himself stood down as head of the official PA broadcaster in recent weeks after reports of a feud with Abbas.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Labor Ahmad Majdalani denied the committee had targeted specific individuals, saying it was studying the status of the organization as a whole.

Zakarneh expressed surprise at the committee’s findings. He noted that if the union was not legally-approved, it was unusual that the labor minister attended recent union elections and endorsed the results.

He referenced dozens of official documents between the union and Palestinian governments and international trade union bodies. The union was established in 2006 shortly after Hamas’ victory in general elections.

The committee recommended that the government publicly declare that the union and its representatives have no legal status, while acknowledging it has gained a "status quo" position.

It also called for an investigation into a "number of administrative and financial violations."

The official PA news agency Wafa said Abbas endorsed the recommendations. The committee was composed of al-Majdalani, Interior Minister Saed Abu Ali, presidential legal adviser Hasan al-Ouri and the PLO executive committee, Wafa reported.

Full Text of the Report

A report issued by the committee which Mahmoud Abbas charged to study the situation in the Workers Union

The committee met in order to study the legal and practical situation in the public sector workers union. Also, they met to discuss the key ways to treat the irresponsibility in the civil and public services which is caused by the unilateral decisions taken by the union council officials. After reviewing the Palestinian basic law, the civil service law, labor law, law no. 5 of 2008, and all laws related to this subject, as well as checking the legal basis for the union, the committee found that:

1. The union is considered a professional association which should be formed according to a special law by itself like any other professional union. This does not exist in the workers union.

2. The civil service law no. 4 of 2005 was devoid of any text that allows formation of a union for workers in the public services. This means the legislature intended that if workers in the (Palestinian) National Authority were allowed to form a union, their loyalty would not be to public service, and this will create disharmony between the union’s body and work systems in the public services. However, this will lead to a full paralysis in the public services` facilities, and we believe that if formatting a union was allowed, there must be a clear text in the civil service law.

3. After research and investigation, the committee found that the same number of the union’s council is registered in a foreign charity association with the Ministry of Interior under the name of "Governmental workers association." After studying the associations law, the committee found that this registration violates the law beginning with the objectives and goals which are quite different from the goals of this association. They were not supposed to register in this association.

4. They also found that the minister of the interior had issued a resolution to cancel the registration in this association on 29/3/2011. He also ordered to liquidate it according with the assets, but he did not follow up the matter. Hence, the association is not registered in the Ministry of Interior.

5. They also found that this association is not registered in the Ministry of Labor, and it has no license. But it is found that this group has created an internal system called "the basic law of the union of workers in the public and civil service." According to what has been stated by the minister of labor, the ministry’s role was limited in only attending the conference in terms of procedural act.

The legal outcome:

There is no legal body or organized legal frame for the so-called "workers union for the public services."

Suggestions and recommendations:

Although there is no legal body for the union, from a practical and realistic view this body has acquired its position through the status quo.

The committee suggests that:

1. The ministries council should issue a resolution in order to apply the provisions of Law No. 5 (2008) on organizing exercises on the right to strike.

2. The general personnel council should issue a declaration which indicates that the spokesman of the union has no legal position.

3. The minister of interior should issue an advertisement indicating that the so-called workers union does not exist according to the ministry of interior or any other regulations.

4. After finding a number of administrative and financial violations, the minister of labor should transmit these violations to the competent authorities in order to begin an investigation.

5. Committee members kindly request that President Mahmoud Abbas deal with this matter according to the procedures of the Fatah party, in terms of the harm inflicted on the Fatah leadership through media statements and opposition to PA policies, and creation of a state of chaos and confusion in Palestinian public opinion, and calling into question the abilities of the PA in world opinion.

6. The committee hopes after the president’s approval of (these) suggestions, to transmit them to the competent authorities in order to start implementing them.

(Ma’an)

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