Translated from Ynet News, http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4460953,00.html

The Ministry of Economy is powerless in the enforcement of minimum wage and other labor rights in the areas of Judea and Samaria, reveals the Committee for Public Petitions. Head of the committee, Parliament member Adi Kol, says, “It is not right that Palestinian workers should be employed in slave conditions simply because government offices have not held themselves to the timetable that they themselves proposed.”

The minimum wage law as well as other worker’s rights are not being enforced beyond the Green Line, nor are they applied to Palestinian workers that are employed by Israelis anytime in the near future. This comes in contrast to a decision by the government that issues in enforcement of labor rights must be resolved by the end of December. Such was revealed today (3.12.2013) by the Ministry of Justice in a hearing that took place in the Committee for Public Petitions in the Knesset.

In the hearing it was acknowledged that although the minimum wage law applies to businesses in Judea and Samaria, the Ministry of Economy has not enforced it and will not be able to do so until January 1st, 2014 at the earliest, when the government will allot financial resources to do so. In response, chair of the committee Adi Kol (Yesh Atid), noted that, “It is not right that Palestinian workers should be employed in slave conditions simply because government offices have not held themselves to the timetable that they themselves proposed.”

In the hearing, it was stated that even though the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that all labor law applies to Palestinians employed by Israelis, in the absence of a similar ruling by a government ministry, there remains a major problem with enforcement. The Ministry of Justice has claimed that inspectors from the Ministry of Economy have encountered many violations in labor rights, though as of now they hesitate to even prepare for the implementation of enforcement.

It was further mentioned in the hearing that Israeli employers collect around 2,000 Shekel per month from Palestinian workers in exchange for the permits needed for legal employment, creating a situation where employers “rollover” the cost of these permissions on the workers themselves. The Ministry of Economy claimed in response that they never have had to open such a complaint and have committed to examining the issue leading up to the next hearing.

Chairman Kol expressed frustration at government ministries in the hearing, arguing that they lend their hand to clear violations of basic human rights for Palestinian workers. Kol further demanded answers regarding their protection under the law in cases of work accidents or pension rights.

The Jordan Valley: 8-12 Shekel per hour

Hanna Zohar, from Kav LaOved, an organization that works with foreign workers, pointed out that six years ago the Israeli Supreme Court put an end to the discussion around the application of minimum wage, and that today it is clear that the law applies also to Palestinian workers. According to her, the situation in the JordanValley is particularly extreme. There, Palestinian workers earn on average 8-12 shekels an hours and don’t receive any additional rights. “1 out of 4 workers pay their Israeli employer 1,500 to 2,000 Shekels a month for work licenses, sums taken directly from their salaries,” Zohar explains.

Deputy Major Yair Maman, the head of the economic branch of the Office of the Supervision of the Territories, explained to the committee that today 52,000 Palestinians are given permission to work in Israel, some as permanent workers and some as seasonal workers in the agriculture sector. In Judea and Samaria, another 25,000 Palestinians are employed by Israeli employers. In addition, approximately 33,000 work in Israel illegally.

According to the statistics of the Palestinian Authority’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the average salary paid to a Palestinian worker employed by an Israeli company is 168 shekel per day. Knesset member Dov Khenin (Chadash) asked who is responsible for the enforcement of this amount, which is based on a calculation of minimum wage.

Riki Yechezkel from the Ministry of Economy responded, “The Ministry implements enforcement on the basis of complaints, but does not initiate them.” According to her, the Ministry conducted just 25 investigations over the course of two years beyond the Green Line and today the Ministry of Justice is working to apply additional labor laws in Judea and Samaria.

Aya Devir, from the Ministry of Justice, argued that the legal situation in Judea and Samaria is “very complex.” She added that all labor laws in Israel apply to Palestinian workers in Judea and Samaria, even though Israeli law in general does not apply there. According to her, in the meantime laws regarding salary protection have thus far not been applied in Judea and Samaria with a decree from the Major-General but that laws regarding work contracts might indeed have been applied.

Erez Wagner from the organization Ma’an revealed that, “lately a new decision has been accepted by insurance companies to stop insuring Palestinians from loss of ability to work. A number of workers have been injured and it has become clear that the companies have stopped allocating insurance bonuses for them. They do, however, receive an allotment for pension according to the rulings of the court. That is to say that Palestinian workers pay just as much but get less in return.”

Kol, in her concluding statements, promised that the committee will turn to various Justice and Security ministers to demand speeding up checks on the extent of the application of labor law in Judea and Samaria. She also requested an answer from government ministries about the cessation of payment for insurance for work accidents for Palestinians. The next Knesset hearing on the issue will take place in a month.