Union Peace Effort Pays Off In Palestine

An ITF sponsored project to get Palestinian and Israeli unions together shows peace in the Middle East is possible between workers

Today, as a result  the improved security situation in the West Bank and international pressure including union pressure on the Israeli government, roadblocks that made life hell for  Palestinian truck drivers, are less of an obstacle.

An ITF sponsored project to improve the daily conditions of road transport workers inside the Palestinian West Bank established in 2007 by creating a hot line to Israeli unions to facilitate military clearance has been a success.  And the ITF now says it needs to be transformed into two parallel campaigns to organise drivers on both sides of the border between Palestine and Israel. 

Improved security considerably reduced and journeys which used to take two hours or more can now be done in 20 minutes. But a major problem for Palestinian drivers - in trucks, taxis and minibuses - remains at the border crossings where cargo and passengers have to be physically transferred from Palestinian (green plate) vehicles onto Israeli (yellow plate) ones, the ITF says. 

There is potential to significantly raise the trade union organisation rate amongst road transport drivers on  both sides of the border Iine addition, there are little or no basic facilities for the drivers who have to wait to unload and load goods coming from, or destined to Israeli ports or to drop off and pick up the more than 50,000 migrant Palestinian workers who travel to work in Israel every day.

"We are now aiming to set up two parallel projects - one to organise and regulate Palestinian trucks and taxis, and one to increase the unionisation rate in Israel, where road transport is by far the most badly organised transport sector" he added.

That was the conclusion reached by ITF General Secretary David Cockroft, after an intensive two day visit to the region last week.

"When I visited the region in early 2008, Israeli road blocks were seriously obstructing professional Palestinian drivers carrying out their daily work" said Cockroft.

"We were working with the two ITF affiliates, the PTGWU and the transport workers' union of the Histadrut, to establish a Helpline which would drastically reduce the hours wasted waiting at the checkpoints which were spread throughout Palestine."

UNION COOPERATION THE BEST WAY FORWARD

"The experience of good cooperation between leaders of Palestinian and Israeli unions, which we have observed coming out of the roadblocks project  which emerged from a tough negotiating session in Cyprus in 2007, shows how trade unions can make a difference to ordinary workers" added Cockroft.

"We oppose Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the wall which was erected to protect Israeli civilians. We  strongly support a viable two state solution agreed to by the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government" he added "we also oppose violence on both sides of the conflict, but the ITF deals primarily not with the high level political discussions, but with improving the working lives of transport workers.