In a special interview with the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC, Aref Abu Jarad, head of the Palestinian Public Employees Syndicate in Gaza, said that the entire Palestinian Authority institutions would start an unprecedented massive strike, if salaries of state employees are unpaid.
“The health sector and the petroleum authority will also participate in the general strike”, Abu Jarad confirmed.

Abu Jarad maintained that over the past several months, since the crisis has started, ‘we in the syndicate have given enough chances for the current government to pay the salaries regularly, but all our appeals have not been heard so far’.

“ our upcoming measures will be the toughest in recent months as we have fed up of fake promises, so the best way is to escalate, therefore, our protest might be fruitful”, he said.

Abu Jarad maintained that the syndicate has set a deadline until March15, so the government would comply with its demands, otherwise the public sector would see the ever toughest strike since the crisis has started in March 2006.

The government’s financial crisis is linked with the international economic boycott, have you taken this into account?

First and foremost, we are state employees, what most concerns us is our salaries, we have given the government enough chances and we have been assured recently that the salaries would be paid regularly. However, nothing has been achieved yet, Abu Jarad answered.

He made clear that the agreement stipulated that the government would allocate %45 of the national income for paying the salaries, yet the government has not committed itself to that.

“We are also well-aware that the Hamas-led government could have bring about millions of dollars through different means, so why it still refrains from paying our salaries?”, the syndicate’s head wondered.

Abu Jarad also affirmed to IMEMC that the Hamas-led government has appointed hundreds of Hamas supporters in many PA institutions and that dozens of those newly-appointed staff have been recruited in key positions with high salaries.

He confirmed that these new posts have been paid full salaries regularly, while those old ones have not.

How do you view the impact of payment delay?

The delay of payment of PA salaries have greatly affected the daily life of employees, as they have been forced to deduce expenditures to minimum as a considerable numner of them have been forced to sell some of their furniture and belongings in order to stay alive.

The situation is really miserable, that’s why we have taken the decision to heighten up our protesting measures in a way that would eventually allow hundreds of thousands of families live as normal as human beings.

What do you expect from the upcoming unity government?

What we expect is a full commitment by the would-be government to our legitimate demands regarding our basic right, which is the salary.

The Palestinian territories have been witnessing an unprecedented financial crisis since a Hamas-led government came to power in last January’s legislative elections.

Israel, along with major international players, has since then boycotted the Hamas government unless the latter recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previously signed agreements with Israel. Israel alone has been withholding approximately US$6.00, a total of tax revenue, due to the Palestinian Authority.

As a result of such an economic boycott, 16, 0000 state employees in West Bank and the Gaza Strip have not been regularly paid since March2006, except some donations by the European Union and a part of their due salaries by the Hamas-led government.

A recent report by the Washington-based World Bank warned of a complete deterioration of PA institutions if such a financial crisis persists, calling on donor countries including Arab to help the Palestinian Authority sustain.

Palestinians agreed earlier in February in the Saudi Arabian city of Makkah to a national unity government that is capable of lifting the economic embargo. Such a power-sharing government is likely to be made public within the next couple of weeks, after concerned parties, including Fatah and Hamas, will have come to terms regarding ministerial posts.