For the first time in the history of Palestine, a 40-hour work-week with a two-day weekend has been declared by the Hamas-led Palestinian government. The declaration comes in the midst of negotiations for a Palestinian national unity government, and a major financial crisis due to the suspension of international aid money to Palestine.
Since Hamas was elected as the majority party in the Palestinian government in late January, international aid money has been frozen, preventing the government from paying salaries to over 200,000 employees. The implementation of the 40-hour work week at this time appears to be a concession to government workers who have not been paid for months, AND IS being hailed as a victory
by worker’s unions.
Jamil Shehadeh, head of the Palestinian Teacher’s Union, who had threatened a strike just as schools are set to open, said in an interview with the IMEMC, "Everybody should know that the base of all our problems here is the Israeli occupation – if we didn’t have the occupation, we wouldn’t have such problems. Secondly, those countries who blindly support Israel are part of the problem. And third, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for paying the salaries. The Authority should find ways to fulfill its obligations to the workers."
Palestinian workers have long been exploited by Israeli contractors as cheap labor, but since Israel has blocked the borders, and recruited Thai and other southeast Asian immigrants to replace Palestinian workers, the unemployment rate in Palestine has soared to over 50%. Raids by Israeli immigration police on workplaces have increased, with over 1,000 Palestinian workers arrested in Israel in the last month alone.