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Palestinian employers use tricks to pay only 1/2 - 1/3 of minimum wage, reveals trade union leader

Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |

An interview on Labor Day with the Secretary-General of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Shaher Sa’ad, shed more light on the conditions in the PA labour market.

Announcing that a new minimum wage of 1,880 Israeli shekels/month ($578) had been agreed on in the PA, Sa’ad also revealed that although the PA set a minimum wage of 1,450 shekels ($446) in 2013, it has never really been implemented or enforced. In fact, he explained, some employers just don’t pay the minimum wage, while others use tricks and have the employees pay part of the full salary back to the employer. Women are the most abused by Palestinian employers, sometimes receiving only 500 - 600 shekels a month - 1/3 of the minimum wage:

Secretary-General of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions Shaher Sa'ad: “We have reached an agreement on a minimum wage of 1,880 [Israeli] shekels, and it will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022… There has been a minimum wage since Jan. 1, 2013 that is 1,450 shekels, [but] the minimum wage has not been implemented. There are also female workers [earning only] 500 shekels a month and 600 shekels a month… There will be a list of sanctions and fines. Whoever does not implement the minimum wage needs to be punished according to the law… There are many tricks to bypass the minimum wage… [The workers] receive the 1,450 shekels with their right [hand] and give part of it [back] with their left [hand to their employer]. How? It could be that the worker will receive 1,450 shekels, take 800 shekels from it, and return the rest to the employer.”

[Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, May 1, 2021]

This phenomenon adds to the reasons why Palestinians prefer to work for Israeli employers. In 2016, Palestinian Media Watch reported that PA government statistics showed that Israeli employers pay Palestinian workers twice what they are paid by Palestinian employers. However, Palestinian laborers still suffer because Palestinian middle men steal half or even two thirds of the workers’ salaries, especially of women’s salaries:

For a more in-depth review, read PMW’s report in response to the UN’s blacklist of some Israeli companies in 2020 – the blacklist hurts Palestinian laborers more than it harms Israeli companies that have “activities” in the West Bank.

The following is a longer excerpt of the statement by Secretary-General of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions:

Secretary-General of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions Shaher Sa'ad: “We have reached an agreement on a minimum wage of 1,880 [Israeli] shekels, and it will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022. The matter has currently been brought to His Honor [PA] Prime Minister [Muhammad Shtayyeh], and the [PA] government needs to approve it… The minimum wage is very important. After all there has been a minimum wage since Jan. 1, 2013 that is 1,450 shekels, [but] the minimum wage has not been implemented-”

Official PA TV host: “Still there is [a minimum wage].”

Shaher Sa’ad: “Still there are also female workers [earning only] 500 shekels a month and 600 shekels a month… We disagree [with the business sector] on two points: The first point is that the business sector came out with a clear statement that this minimum wage law, this number obligates them. And the second thing is that there will be a list of sanctions and fines. Whoever does not implement minimum wage needs to be punished according to the law… There are many tricks to bypass the minimum wage. The latest case that I heard about three days ago, and it’s a case [that really happened]… [The workers] receive the 1,450 shekels with their right [hand] and give part of it [back] with their left [hand to their employer]. How? It could be that the worker will receive the 1,450 shekels, take 800 shekels from it, and return the rest to the employer.”

Host: “In one way or another.”

Shaher Sa’ad: “In one way or another. The issue requires a law that obligates and punishes on this matter.”

[Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, May 1, 2021]