On Tuesday morning representatives from the Arab UNWRA Staff Union, Employees from the refugee camp services, the Jordanian Miners Trade Union, the Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine and supporters came together in solidarity with UNWRA workers on strike. The strikers are now into their third week on hunger strike with no concern or attempt at dialogue from the UN.
Shaher Saad, General Secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions of Palestine, spoke about his dismay at the disregard for the workers plight by the UN. He pointed out that Commissioner General Filippo from the UN, seemed more concerned with his personal interests in his public statements, than the lives and livelihood of UN workers. He pointed out the Filippo’s term is due to end in March and the Commissioner seems more concerned with his future career, and is happy to pass the problem on to any incoming Commissioner. Saad highlighted how this showed Filippo’s total disregard for the strikers and held him personal responsibility for the suffering the workers and their families are enduring.
The President of the General Union of Mineworkers from Jordan also attended in solidarity with the Palestinian strikers. The President, Khaled Zaher Alphenattsa, stated that the demands of the strikers are not demands but basic human rights. He spoke of his dismay that an agency such as the UN, set up to support the Palestinians in the face of the illegal occupation of their land, could sack workers arrested by the illegal occupation. He went on to say that pay equality, one of the other demands from the strikers, is the very basic right of a worker. A right that Alphenattsa stated the Commissioner flouted, despite the Italian people being consistent friends of the Palestinians over the years. Alphenattsa equated Filippo’s behaviour with that of the Italian mafia. He said:
The Jordanian people are all standing with you and your demands and your struggle and a lot of Unions in the world now hear you and stand with Palestine. This is a difficult time in which we live and who pays the price are the people of Palestine, and those that do not respect these people are not worth the life that the people of Palestine have struggled all these years for. A mere offer of 5,000 dollars by such people disrespects the patience and steadfastness of the workers, who are now being shunned by the very institution that was set up to protect you is very difficult.
Finally the President of the Arab UNWRA Staff Union, Mr Shaker expressed his pride in the strikers, and the hunger strikers in particular. He told the audience of the messages of support and solidarity the Union had received from comrades around the world: millions of institutions, trade unions, politicians and activists. He spoke of the fair demands of the striking workers and the shame of the Commissioner General at his disrespect for the heroic workers, through the publishing of lies and hacking of emails of strikers.
Following the solidarity meeting supporters and strikers came together in the centre of Nablus to demand the resignation of Commissioner General Filippo and the workers steadfastness in the face of intimidation from the UN.
SFP has been supporting the UNWRA workers on strike for their basic rights. We ask all our international friends and particularly Trade Unions, to keep the pressure on their respective representatives to afford the workers their rights. For more details about the strike please see our previous reports here.