On Sunday, 09 April 2017, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop titled as, “Impact of Salaries’ Deductions on Rights of Public Servants in the Gaza Strip.” This workshop came in light of the National Unit Government’s decision to apply the decision to deduct from salaries of public civil and military servants in the Gaza Strip in order to practice pressure to abolish this decision. This workshop was attended by civil and military public servants, representatives from the Public Servants’ Union, political factions, Civil Society and media organizations. The workshop aimed at discussing the deductions from the rights of civil and military servants in the public sector and its impact on their living conditions in order to conclude recommendations that would contribute to achieving the job security and protect the servants and their family members from the deterioration of their economic and social conditions. The workshop was facilitated by Khalil Shaheen, Director of PCHR’s Economic and Social Rights Unit, who welcomed the participants.
Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, reviewed PCHR’s position of the decision to deduct from the public servants’ salaries. Sourani confirmed that the Gaza Strip residents were waiting from the Palestinian leadership to end the division and remove its disastrous effects. He added that Gaza residents wanted to reduce the impact of the Israeli closure, which entered its 11th year and resulted in dangerous effects condemned by all the International human rights organizations that considered the closure as a war crime and crime against humanity. Sourani also said that Gaza residents were hoping that the Palestinian government to work on ending the Israeli occupation on the Gaza Strip on its 50th anniversary. However, they were surprised with assaulting their families’ livelihood and deducting more than 30% from the salaries of the public servants. Sourani added that the European Union (EU)’s decision to stop funding the servants’ salaries is not new; pointing out that the EU informed the Palestinian Authority (PA) of its decision few months ago. In contrast, the PA did not take any action to find any real solutions to protect the servants and guarantee paying their salaries. Sourani stressed that the Gaza Strip will face a new serious and unprecedented situation due to huge deductions from the servants’ salaries. Sourani pointed out that this decision is illegal, unfair and should be cancelled. Sourani is also concerned that this decision would be an introduction to sink Gaza in its concerns and deepen its problems, but Gaza which rebelled against the Israeli occupation for half a century and led the Palestinian national struggle, will not accept this. Sourani warned of “not blackmailing Gaza with its livelihood.”
Aref Abu Jarad, Head of the Union of Public Employees in the Gaza Strip, pointed out that the public servants committed to the 2007 government’s decision not to head to their workplaces despite their unwillingness to do so. Otherwise, the servants’ allowances, promotions and transportation dues were stopped during Fayyad’s government. When the National Unity Government was formed, the employees were optimistic that it will right to them. However, the servants were surprised that injustice unprecedentedly increased as 30% of their salaries were deducted. Abu Jarad also said that the servants’ conditions are catastrophic as they have become incapable of paying off their financial debts and obligations and even incapable of meeting their family needs.
Taysir al-Burdainy, Member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, described the deductions decision as a massacre committed against the Gaza servants. He added that in 2007 they called upon the Palestinian Government to return to work, but the government did not respond. Thus, the Palestinian Government is responsible for what happened and does not have the right to deprive the Gaza servants of their rights due to its decision to which the Gaza Strip’s servants committed. Al-Burdainy also said that this decision forced people to beg their livelihood and this is inhuman and degrading of human dignity. He also emphasized that the applying this decision only on the Gaza Strip servants deepens the idea of the “State of Gaza” and make people of Gaza starve.
Salamah Abu Zeitar, Head of the General Union of Health Services and Member of the Secretariat of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions, emphasized that the General Federation believes that the decision to deduct 30% from the servants’ salaries is an unjust decision, which distinguishes between the West Bank residents and Gaza Strip residents. He added that 85% of servants owe to banks, which means that the decision affects the basic rights of the servants and deprives them of their livelihood. He pointed out that the salary is a genuine and inalienable right of servants according to the law. Abu Za’iter doubted the government’s argument of the financial crisis and said: “Why did not the decision include the West Bank servants?” He pointed out that the EU denied its relation with the decision, warning of the social impact of the decision, the state of frustration among the servants and their feeling that the PA abandoned them.
In his intervention, Muhsen Abu Ramadan, Director of the Arab Society for Agricultural Development, said that the decision to deduct from the salaries violate the Palestinian Civil Service Law and constitutes a step within a series of steps taken by the PA to stop gradually from offering services to the Gaza Strip, particularly health, education and social affairs. Abu Ramadan emphasized that the decision is political par excellence and is not related to the financial crisis. He explained that the EU referred 30 million dollars for the social services with a recommendation not to affect the servants’ salaries. Abu Ramadan added that the most important impact of this decision is that it would lead to the continuous geographic and regional marginalization and transferring a social sector from the middle class to the lower class in addition to increasing rates of poverty and unemployment.
At the end of the workshop, Khalil Shahin, Director of the Econmminc, Social and Cultural Rights Unit, opened discussions for particpants, who presented interventions and aksed questions. The particpants then concluded to the following recommendations:
- Calling upon the Palestinian President and the Prime Minister of the National Unity Government to cancel immediately this unlawful decision that aims at targeting civil and military servants’ livelihoods.
- Calling upon both the President and Prime Minister to order the Ministry of Finance to return all the financial cutbacks to all the Gaza Strip servants and to find other mechanisms that would contribute to achieving job security and protecting these servants and their families from the deteriorating economic and social conditions.
- Ending the Palestinian political division as a prelude to solve the problem of public servants in the Gaza Strip.