Top Unionists Visit Palestine to Promote Justice and Workers’ Rights

A delegation of top trade unionists met Palestinian government ministers and senior PLO officials and were warmly welcomed by union leaders and activists in Palestine during a three-day visit last week to promote justice and workers’ rights.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin and general secretary Steve Cotton, along with Mamadou Diallo of the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation), Peter Kennedy from Unifor (Canadian labour union) and Sharon Li from the Singapore Organisation of Seamen, visited Ramallah, Nablus and Qalqiliah. 

They met Shaher Saad, PGFTU (Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions) general secretary; Naser Younes, head of the General Union for Transport Workers; the mayor of Nablus, Ghassan al-Shaka (former Palestinian transport minister); and transport and other union workers and activists.

They visited the Palestinian truck drivers support project at the Ertah crossing – which the ITF and Unifor have been assisting for several years – and discussed concerns with the workers waiting there. Transport is critical to economic and social support to Palestinian working communities and is the only essential infrastructure for trade and development.

Check point functioning remains a major issue, particularly for Palestinian truck drivers.The delegation also paid a condolence visit to the Dawabsheh family in Duma over the deaths of a child and his parents when their house was burnt down, allegedly by settlers, on 31 July.

The ITF delegation also spent two days in Israel, where they met trade unionists in Tel Aviv, Sderot and Ashdod to explore a co-operative approach to the easing of the problems for Palestinian truck drivers at check points. They went on a port inspection and held a meeting with dockworkers over industrial issues in the port sector, including automation and private port development.

Steve Cotton said: “This moving visit was important to demonstrate our continuing and strong support for trade unionists and workers in Palestine in the face of conflict and injustice in the region. We discussed what further practical assistance we could offer the unions in future so that they can step up their fight for workers’ rights and equality.” 

Paddy Crumlin commented that the visit to both places again demonstrated the ITF’s solidarity with Palestinian trade unions. He added that the ITF’s support for building strong, well-resourced and functional trade unions in both Palestine and Israel provided an important part of the essential foundation for reconciliation and constructive next steps for workers and their communities, who were labouring under extraordinary humanitarian duress and hardship.

The visit was part of the ITF’s four-year programme to support workers and members of ITF-affiliated trade unions in the region. Find out more and see how you can donate to the ITF Gaza support fund.