The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has joined other international unions and groups in calling for an immediate end to the deadly violence in Palestine, and the fair treatment of Palestinian transport workers who, because of the conflict, are struggling to deliver the essential goods needed for Palestinian society.
A meeting on the 2-3 May 2023 between global leaders and young workers of the ITF and the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) was unable to take place in Palestine itself because of the increasing violence. Instead, union representatives met in Amman, Jordan, and discussed the worsening situation for Palestinian transport workers. They set out a shared plan for defending and strengthening their members’ rights, safety and welfare.
“We call for peace in this conflict and a de-escalation of the relentless downward spiral of violence,” said Paddy Crumlin, the ITF’s President. “Until there is a ceasefire, no-one is safe, least of all transport workers, who face violence and discrimination for simply trying to keep transport moving. We demand the equal treatment of Palestinian drivers to allow them to cross checkpoints freely to carry out their work.”
Workshop sets priorities
At the meeting, Palestinian workers explained the impact of checkpoints and increasing violence. It is affecting such fundamentals as earning decent pay in reasonable conditions. Health and safety have most obviously suffered, but even their basic rights are under threat.
Members of the ITF Young Transport Workers’ Committee held a workshop with representatives of the PGFTU which looked at the priorities for building power for transport workers. They also discussed projects to support organising and campaigning on the ground. The importance of universal social protection for transport workers was identified as a major focus for the work of the ITF in Palestine over the next few years.
Participants heard how ITF projects in Palestine have already improved justice for transport workers and strengthened their rights. The ITF continues to work with the PGFTU to provide facilities for truck drivers who use back-to-back terminals at the checkpoints. Together, the two union bodies committed to campaign for better treatment of Palestinian drivers at checkpoints, and demand that drivers from both sides are treated equally.
Union plans for Palestinian solidarity
In the shared plan, the ITF committed to:
- Leading projects to build the power of transport unions to campaign for workers’ rights in Palestine.
- Leading the campaign for occupational safety and health – including the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work – and universal social protection for all transport workers in Palestine, and for the Palestinian people in general.
- Continuing and strengthening support for the PGFTU and its campaign for equal treatment and equal rights of transit for Palestinian transport workers
- Maintaining a solidarity fund to support transport workers in Palestine.
- Conducting research on multinational enterprises operating in the illegal settlements to create leverage and stimulate action.
- Building solidarity between transport workers in Israel and Palestine, increasing pressure on Israeli authorities and employers to respect equally the dignity and rights of all transport workers.
“I’m proud of the work we do in this region, in almost impossible circumstances,” said Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary. “The building blocks are all in place for transport workers’ unions to play their crucial role in creating a thriving society that can live in peace. Now we need to see a wider commitment to working together for the good of everyone in Palestine and Israel.”