Workers at the “Yamit Sinon” factory, most of them from the city of Tulkarm in the West Bank, declared in a labor rally held on Friday January 1, 2021, that they insist on waging a battle with the management until the end. They unanimously supported the position taken by both their union, MAAN, and the Workers Committee, calling for an open-ended strike that will continue until the company responds to their demands.
This meeting came after the union announced the strike on Thursday, December 31, when it became clear that the company’s management refused to negotiate seriously with MAAN, the union that legally represents the workers. Yamit Sinon is one of the factories in the Israeli industrial zone of Nitzanei Shalom, which is located in the heart of Tulkarm, next to the separation barrier. It employs 75 Palestinians, paying low wages and leaving them without basic social rights.
MAAN declared the strike as a result of the company’s procrastination in the negotiation process and its disregard for agreements reached at the Labor Court in Jerusalem in a session on Sunday December 27. During the court session, which the two parties attended after the workers ’strike last November, the company agreed to negotiate and committed itself to present, as a first step, its answers to the draft collective agreement that the union had sent to it months earlier. However, within a few days, it became clear that the company was disregarding what had been agreed upon and that it was not interested in seriously and positively negotiating a collective agreement.
The company did not send its answers in the specified time, nor did it respond to the union’s letter urging it to comply. In the second stage, after the union announced the strike in protest against this recklessness, the company sent a detailed letter indicating that it rejected the union and workers ’demands altogether and wanted to reduce wages.
The message of the company amounted to a big “No” to the demands of the union and the workers. The company’s letter stipulated that there is a personal agreement for workers signed in 2016, which states that the binding law in the “Nitzanei Shalom” area, and therefore in the Yamit factory, is the old Jordanian law from 1966.
The company’s response included the following points: No to increased wages (most workers have been working for decades at a minimum wage); No convalescence pay – to this day the company does not pay for recovery days. No to application of the law on the issue of retirement – to this day the workers have no retirement fund. Not only that, but the company even announced its intention to reduce the wages of some, and if the workers refused to accept this, they could leave.
It is worth noting that the first session of negotiations between the union and management was held in February 2020 (11 months ago), when the union raised the demands of the workers. The company asked for time to think and then postponed the sessions because of the Corona virus. Now, about a year later, we face a decisive moment as the company says that it will not respond to the workers’ demands, even partially and gradually.
In the face of procrastination, arrogance and recklessness, it was clear to the workers and the union that there was no choice but to announce the strike, and this was done with the consent of all workers.
It should be noted that the battle is led by the elected Workers Committee, which includes in its ranks five veteran professionals. One member of the Committee, Khalil Shehab, expressed the workers’ insistence to continue the battle: “All the workers of Yamit are convinced of the correctness of the position taken by the union. We are ready to wage a long strike if necessary. We refuse to return to work without ensuring that the company responds to our basic demands.”