Last updated: 19 December, 2012

Palestinian workers strike over unpaid salaries

Palestinian government employees across the West Bank were on strike on Wednesday over unpaid salaries, with the protest expected to continue into Thursday.

Thousands of staff at ministries, schools and health facilities failed to show up for work to protest against the non-payment of their November salaries.

“This was a full strike today,” Bassem Zakarneh, spokesman for the Palestinian government workers union, told AFP, adding that it would continue on Thursday.

But the strike was not directly targeting the government, which was the victim of Israel’s decision to withhold tax and tariff revenues it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, he said.

The strike “is to protest against Israeli piracy and theft of our money, which put one million Palestinians under the poverty line,” Zakarneh said, calling on the government “to stand with the workers.”

Education ministry sources said they were looking at a proposal to start the school winter break early because of a shortage of teachers due to the strike.

The government of the West Bank has been mired for months in a financial crisis that has left it regularly unable to pay its employees.

October salaries were paid late, and government workers have yet to see any of their November wages with no word on when they might be paid.

The crisis has been aggravated by Israel’s decision to halt the transfer of tax and tariff revenues as a punishment after the Palestinians gained upgraded status at the United Nations.

Earlier this month, Arab ministers agreed to activate a financial “safety network” of $100 million a month which would be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

But on Sunday, Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said the government had not yet seen the additional funds, which he warned would only plug part of the gap in the budget.

“I have nothing left to do but to urge our Arab brothers to activate this net, because until this point there has been no movement to deliver the $100 million,” he told reporters.

“If this safety net is not activated quickly, I’ll call for an emergency Arab summit to discuss the financial situation because it’s a dangerous situation.”