Today we travelled to Bethlehem to visit the women committee of the PGFTU. In attendance was Neda Abu zant Secretary of the national women’s committee & Mona Jobran Secretary of the Bethlehem women’s committee along with the full women’s committee of the Bethlehem branch of the Union.
We learnt about the challenges that Women workers face in Palestine and how they and their Union have organised and educated other women to play an active role within there union. Women currently only making up just 16% of the labour market over all but now making up 30% of the Union membership and are still growing along with the youth membership who are growing as well.
We heard how over the last 5 years the Union has built up to 500 members with women making a large percentage of that membership,
Despite hostile employee’s and certain laws that make it difficult for women to receive equal pay and conditions along with other challenges.
For example women only receive $300 a month which is below the poverty line and employers will favour male drivers over women to avoid paying maternity leave. They also suffer from physical harassment and sexual advances from unscrupulous management and bosses in 1 company who then threaten them with the sack.
What I found significant was despite all this adversity they are fighting from the front with big numbers turning up whenever there is a rally or demonstration. They are active in organising and educating other members and making positive change for their brothers and sisters in the workplace.
At an executive level Women now hold 8 executive positions on the board of the GUTW, (including The youth president Wala) this is made easier with the strong leadership in the Union making sure women and youth issues are at the forefront of the decision making process in the Union. also making it possible was their past conference of members having endorsed a resolution that 30% of the board must be women and that is now Union policy.
The women of the PGFTU along with the ITF are paving the way for other women and other young workers by showing what can be achieved by working as a collective, not just in the workplace but in the struggle for justice a better life for all. Get more information on the work of the ITF to promote and support women transport workers.