On Wednesday morning, 17 October 2018, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop titled: “Repercussions of Applying Social Security Law” to discuss the measures and mechanisms to apply the Social Security Law and the repercussions. During the panel discussion, experts representing workers, employers, trade unions, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations, and Media participated.
Khalil Shaheen, Director of the Economic and Social Rights’ Unit, opened the panel discussion by reviewing the feedbacks from the various Palestinian sectors regarding the Social Security Law that will be applied in the beginning of next November. He noted that the Palestinian popular moves, including the civil society organizations’ contribution to amending the texts of the law before being adopted, believing that the philosophy of social protection is a fundamental right codified by the international conventions; including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and International Labor Convention.
Mustafa Shehadah, Legal Expert in Labor Rights and Union Organizing, displayed the stages which the legislations relevant to Palestinian workers’ rights went through in the Public and Private Sectors, including the Palestinian Labor Law and General Retirement Law applicable in the Palestinian Authority (PA) in addition to the Social security Law for the Private Sector which was subject to an actuarial study that takes in consideration the economic conditions of the workers, income, life expectancy and living costs in Palestine under the auspices of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Shehadah noted that the law’s first draft favors the employers and prejudice labor rights; however, the struggle of the trade union and civil society organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip presented a balanced formula for the Law, amending 85% of the legal texts. Shehadah added that hindering the issuance of the law does not serve the interests of the labor movement in Palestine and contributes to aggravating its economic and social conditions.
Dr. Salamah Abu Z’eiter, Member of the Board of Directors of the Social Security Corporation (SSC), pointed that the SSC is a representative institution which takes in consideration the accession of all society segments to it, including workers, employers, civil society organizations, the government and others, in order to guarantee reaching a consensual formula for the Social Security Law accepted by all parties despite all shortcomings the law has face before its application. Dr. Abu Z’eiter added that the SSC basically and deeply laid out social protection for workers to be a complementary to the Palestinian Labor Law. Dr. Abu Z’eiter emphasized that the SSC shows readiness to discuss with the employers, workers, and civil society organization.
Helmi Barzaq, Legal Expert in the Labor Rights, highlighted the challenges which the Social Security Law has faced before its application such as the irregular labor market in Palestine; and absence of accurate statistics of the number of workers in the private sector, their economic conditions and income levels. Barzaq suggested the application of law staggered over phases starting with the regular and non-random institutions and those including large number of workers until reaching those institutions of one person; or starting with certain productive sectors or choosing one governorate and applying the law on which.
Trade unionist Elias al-Jeldah said that the dispute over the Social Security Law is of a political nature and the PA measures and sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip in March 2017 led to waning confidence in its role as a guarantor for the Social Security Fund. Al-Jeldah added that the Social Security Law came in favor of the workers in the private sector and provides them privileges which the Palestinian Labor has lack.
Ahmed Abu Dayya, Human Resources Maneger at PCHR, wondered the ability of the PA to fulfill the workers’ rights in case there was a deficit in the Social Security Fund or to support the fund in light of the unstable political and financial situation of the PA. He also asked about the body which the worker can sue in case a dispute erupted between the latter and the Social Security Fund.
A long debate occurred about the repercussions of applying the law. The participants expressed their support for the application of the Law, considering it the legal umbrella that enhances social protection for workers. They also expressed their fears about many important issues; mainly end of service indemnity adjustment; and not publishing the executive regulations of the law. The participants recommended in the workshop the following:
- Issuing the Social Security Law which is a very important step towards respecting, enhancing and protecting the right to social security according to the international human rights conventions, particularly the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights.
- Calling upon the National Unity Government to open in-depth discussions and dialogues with all competent parties to guarantee the issuance of the executive regulations that would protect the right to social security according to the international human rights standards.
- Calling upon the human rights organizations and civil society organizations to contribute seriously to discussing and adopting the executive regulations of law.