LO delegation carried through a trade union seminar on the West Bank

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Some thirty Palestinian trade union representatives from the West Bank, half of them women, participated in a seminar on the ILO (the labour market body of the UN) held in Nablus on January 15.
The seminar was arranged by the LO in collaboration with the Palestinian central trade union organisation, the PGFTU. The main speaker was Ulf Edström, Head of the International Department of the LO, with many years of commitment to the ILO. Since 1996 he is member of the Governing Body of the ILO.

The seminar took place 19 days after the attack of Gaza by Israel, which of course marked the discussions and the contributions. But both the LO and the PGFTU were eager to realise the seminar, Ulf Edström says.
I consider it as a trade union solidarity act to accomplish the seminar in spite of the dramatic situation in the region. Our presence was appreciated both by the participants and by the leaders of PGFTU.

The fact that so many persons participated shows that there is an interest to develop trade union work even during the awful circumstances, which prevail in the Palestinian areas today.

He opened the seminar by pointing out the need for trade union solidarity. The participants listened attentively as he told them that the Swedish trade union movement received solid economic support by trade union organisations all around the world after the devastating so-called general strike in 1909.

We in the union movement must stick together and support each other , Ulf Edström emphasized. We do this both out of solidarity and out of self-interest. The Swedish unions cannot safeguard good salaries and conditions if workers from other countries do not have fair conditions as well.

Even if the Palestinian labour market was already in a total crisis, with an extremely high unemployment rate, before the attack on Gaza, it is important to look forward, Ulf Edström points out. Palestine needs a solid concentration on jobs, it should however be jobs with fair conditions in line with the minimum conventions of the ILO.

ILO has worked out an employment programme for Palestine intended to be launched shortly. It is therefore particularly important to train Palestinian union representatives in global minimum standards in working life and how they can monitor that these minimum standards are respected.

Palestinian workers should of course be covered by the rights stipulated by international standards .A condition is that they know these conventions and that there is an efficient system for reporting and taking legal measures in case of offences against them. In Palestine there is no labour inspection that works. This is serious of course and means that the bad conditions are not discovered.
One topic during the seminar was tripartite collaboration between the trade union, the employers and the government in order to achieve good rules on the labour market. Tripartite cooperation is the base of the work of the ILO. Palestine has no tradition of such a cooperation and the Palestinian employers’ associations as well as the authorities are weak.

Tripartite cooperation needs to be developed, it is the foundation of a well functioning labour market, Ulf Edström declared.

During their visit on the West Bank , the LO representatives also met the Palestinian Labour and Planning Minister, Mr Samir Abdullah. The President of the PGFTU, Mr Saher Saed and other representatives from the organisation also participated in the meeting.

Ulf Edström also raised the question of the employment programme of the ILO with the Minister and stressed that the global minimum standards in working life must be respected when it is implemented. He also stressed the importance, for the Palestinian government, of developing the tripartite cooperation by involving unions and the employers in this work.

Samir Abdullah, who earlier had a number of important appointments in the Palestinian administration and in earlier peace delegations and the post as Minister of Industry in the first government of Arafat, stressed the need for special efforts due to the acute situation in Gaza.

He hoped for technical aid from other countries to clean up military installations and put certain dangerous substances out of action which have been used in the military attacks and for contributions to the Palestinian fund for employment and social security.

The LO delegation also met with representatives from the Israeli Histadrut in Tel Aviv.