Labour bites

Israel: General strike

Thousands of Palestinians and Arab Israelis participated in a general strike across Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel and even refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, to protest Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, as well as additional Israeli actions in Jerusalem. Both Hamas, which controls much of the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which enjoys limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, called for their members to participate in the strike.

Building sites, which are reliant on Palestinian labour from both sides of the Green Line, ground to a halt. “We cannot build without them,” said the Israeli Building Association, who reported that only 110 out of the 65,000 Palestinian construction workers from the West Bank went to work in Israel on the day of the strike.

The Palestinian authority, which is dominated by Fatah, allowed public sector employees to participate in the strike, except for health care professionals and other select occupations.

Wadi Ara Mayor Mudar Younes, who directs a union of Arab local municipalities, called it a rare moment of Palestinian unity that crossed the Green Line.

“This is the first time, to my knowledge, that such a general strike began inside [Israel] and spread to the West Bank and Gaza,” Younes said.

Palestinians and Arab Israelis live under three different governments — Israel, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority. The strike was an attempt to show national unity at a time of crisis.

Just days after the disruptive strike action, Israel and Hamas agreed to a “mutual and simultaneous” ceasefire.

Source: The Times of Israel; Morning Star

Morocco: Strikes for contract teachers

Moroccan teachers’ unions have been demonstrating in the capital city, Rabat, to demand permanent contracts and better working conditions. They are also protesting the rising cost of living and the lack of social dialogue.

The teachers’ protests began in 2019 and were re-escalated earlier this year, with tens of thousands of teachers, mostly young professionals in their 20s and 30s, staging regular strikes in different Moroccan cities since the end of March. The protests have faced brutal repression from Moroccan police forces, who have often unlawfully dispersed the protests and used excessive force.

The peaceful strike actions have been to protest the precarity of teachers’ employment conditions. Temporary teaching contracts were introduced in Morocco in 2016 and, since then, more than 50,000 teachers have been hired under this system, describing themselves as “forcibly contractual educators”. For the unions, this is part of the government’s continuing effort to reduce public spending. Currently, 55,000 teachers are hired under precarious contracts, representing almost 30 percent of the teaching workforce.

While contract teachers have the same starting salary as their colleagues on permanent public employee contracts, they do not enjoy the same benefits for healthcare or pensions and can be arbitrarily fired for ‘making a mistake’ without notice, compensation or recourse. Contractual teachers also only receive a two-week training after their university studies – other teachers receive a one-year school-based training – and have fewer opportunities for promotion and no clear career pathway.

This has led to a deep inequality within the teaching workforce, as teachers on contracts lack basic labour rights and job security.

Eighty percent of teachers working under contractual conditions are under 30 years of age and, according to their representatives, feel coerced into accepting the poor employment conditions due to a lack of alternative employment options. In fact, 23 percent of the Moroccan population under 30 years of age are unemployed.

Source: Education International/Amnesty International

Deliveroo drivers are employees

In a scathing judgment, Fair Work Commissioner Ian Cambridge found that under common law, Deliveroo driver Diego Franco was an employee of Deliveroo, not an independent contractor, as the firm asserted. He was therefore subject to unfair dismissal rules and had been unfairly dismissed by Deliveroo, his dismissal having no valid reason and was “harsh, unjust and unreasonable”.

This finding was in line with what Franco and his union, the Transport Workers Union (TWU), had claimed. The TWU was using this as a test case for bringing gig economy contractors into the award system. This is part of a global effort by unions and labour regulators to force gig economy businesses, especially ride share and food delivery ones like Uber and Deliveroo, to treat their drivers as employees not contractors, and therefore pay them minimum wages and give them award conditions.

In deciding that Diego Franco was an employee of Deliveroo, Commissioner Cambridge cited a similar landmark case in the UK. Deliveroo has stated they plan to appeal the decision, arguing its riders are independent contractors as they are free to decide when they work and can work for multiple platforms.

But Commissioner Cambridge said, considering the overall picture, Franco was an employee as he “was not carrying on a trade or business of his own or on his own behalf” and “the level of control that Deliveroo possessed” represented a relationship of employment rather than independent contracting.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the ruling supported the union’s calls for the Federal Government to establish a tribunal to regulate gig economy work.

Source: The New Daily