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The Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry has promised to enforce a minimum wage payment for Palestinians employed at West Bank settlements, the legal bureau of the workers advocacy organization Kav La'Oved reported last week.

Kav La'Oved will now convey complaints it receives, primarily about payments that are far below minimum wage and about unsafe working conditions, to the ministry.

Some 20,000 Palestinians work in Israeli industrial zones and settlements. Kav La'Oved asked the ministry to step in and exercise its authority after it failed to persuade the employment officer at the Civil Administration to do his job.

The ministry's legal counsel, Shoshana Strauss, wrote to Kav La'Oved: "Complaints about nonpayment of minimum wages to Palestinians employed at Israeli settlements over the Green Line may be submitted for handling by the enforcement branch of the support department for foreign workers."

According to an order issued in 1982 by the General Staff commander in charge of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians employed at Israeli settlements are entitled to minimum wage and cost-of-living adjustments, as in Israel.

Kav La'Oved Director Hannah Zohar informed the Civil Administration last April that an Israeli factory in the Barkan region was paying Palestinians below minimum wage. The employment officer's reply indicated that he was unaware the minimum wage law applied to the territories, under the 1982 order. Zohar enlightened him in another letter and attached a list of Israeli factories that pay their Palestinian workers less than minimum wage.

In response, the Civil Administration insisted it can only handle complaints that are accompanied by detailed pay slips. Kav La'Oved believes the authorities ought to investigate these anonymous complaints, as the ministry does in Israel, in recognition of the fact that workers are afraid of retaliation from employers.

If the ministry keeps its promise, it will be the first time since the 1982 order was issued that an Israeli authority is enforcing the minimum wage law for Palestinians employed by Israelis in the West Bank.

A spokesman for the Civil Administration told Haaretz there are 3,656 Palestinians employed at industrial zones in the West Bank, 9,470 within the settlements and 636 outside of them.