Last updated: 31 July, 2011

Palestinian govt pledges pay after strike threat

Palestinian premier Salam Fayyad pledged on Sunday that government workers would be paid within 48 hours after their union in the West Bank threatened an open-ended strike.

“Salaries for this month will be paid in full by the day after tomorrow (Tuesday),” he said in a statement.

“In light of the continued financial difficulties, the payment in full of salaries will significantly reduce the capacity of the government to meet other needs over the next month, and everyone understands that,” he said.

The commitment came shortly after Bassam Zakarna, head of the government workers’ union in the West Bank, warned that he would lead an open-ended strike if salaries were not paid.

“If we do not receive our salaries by Tuesday, we will end cooperation with the government and begin an open-ended strike,” he told AFP.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it is facing a financial crisis because donor countries, and particularly Arab governments, have failed to deliver pledged aid.

The shortfalls have plunged the West Bank government into dire financial straits, forcing the prime minister to announce that government employees would receive half-pay in June.

Salaries for July have yet to be paid at all, and with the holy month of Ramadan — which comes with extra expenses — about to start Monday, government workers said they saw no alternative but to go on strike to demand their wages.

The PA employs about 170,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza, where its employees continue to receive salaries even though the Hamas government has replaced them with its own civil servants.

The West Bank government has been warning for months now that it faces an impending financial crunch because of the failure of donors to deliver promised aid.

Last week, Fayyad presented a specially-convened session of the Arab League with details of the crisis and called on representatives at the Cairo meeting to make good on their aid pledges to the PA.

The government “urgently needs 300 million dollars to overcome the bottleneck and deal with the financial crisis,” he said.