Palestinian workers protest new minimum wage law

Protesters say $377, about one-third of the Israeli minimum wage, is not enough to live on

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Economic protests in Ramallah, September 11 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Economic protests in Ramallah, September 11 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Amid an atmosphere of rising social unrest, dozens of Palestinians took to the streets in Ramallah on Tuesday to demonstrate against a new decision to set the minimum wage in the Palestinian Authority (PA) at NIS 1,450 ($377) a month, an amount many Palestinians claim is insufficient to live on.

A salary policy committee deliberated the matter for eight months, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported, and the Palestinian government ratified the decision on Tuesday. Day-wage laborers will make a minimum of NIS 65 ($17) a day, and the minimum hourly wage will be NIS 8.5 ($2.2).

The decision comes just weeks after thousands of Palestinians protested across the West Bank against rising fuel and commodity prices, in the most significant economic demonstrations since the establishment of the PA in 1993.

The monthly minimum wage in Israel for a full time job (43 hours a week) is 4,300 NIS ($1,117), three times that of the new Palestinian minimum wage

Shaher Sa’id, secretary general of the Palestinian Workers’ Union, which organized the demonstrations, told Al-Quds that the minimum wage should be linked to the national poverty line, which stands at NIS 2,300 ($597). He added that the committee’s decision ran counter to all local and international norms.

NIS 1,450 means the level of death, not the poverty line, for our workers,” read one man’s sign. Another women held a sign calculating the price of a falafel for a family of five, which at $1 apiece is the most affordable Palestinian fast food. The monthly cost of falafel for such a family would be NIS 1,800, well above the proposed minimum wage.

The monthly minimum wage in Israel for a full-time job (43 hours a week) is NIS 4,300 ($1,117), three times that of the new Palestinian minimum wage.

Ahmad Majdalani, the Palestinian labor minister, told Al-Quds that the sum was reached as a result of protracted dialogue and not as government policy dictated from above. He defined the minimum-wage law — the first ever in the Palestinian Authority — as a “historic achievement for the workers’ movement.”

The Palestinian Authority suffers from a chronic budgetary shortfall resulting from unpaid donor pledges. The salaries of government workers has not yet been paid for the month of September.

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