The industrial area of Nitzanei Shalom September 16, 2010 Itzik Ben-Malki
The industrial area of Nitzanei Shalom, near Tul Karm, where Solor Gas operates a plant. Photo by Itzik Ben-Malki
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A Palestinian worker is suing the Israeli company Solor Gas Industries for almost NIS 200,000, claiming he was not paid the minimum wage and social benefits.

Solor Gas Industries says that since it is based in the West Bank, in an area that is not under any of the settlements' jurisdiction, Israeli law does not apply to the plaintiff, but rather Jordanian law.

The worker, Nazar Fukra, says he was paid only NIS 79 a day and none of the social benefits required by law. He is suing the company for NIS 186,071 in the Tel Aviv Labor Court.

"The employer thinks it can exploit the workers to make a profit and then dispense with them without paying their wages or compensation," charged the suit, filed by attorney Oron Meiri. "This is reminiscent of dark days of Third-World exploitation that we would not want to see in Israel."

Fukra, of the West Bank village of Bayt Lid, was employed by Solor for more than eight years. The company operates in the Nitzanei Shalom industrial area near Tul Karm. It provides products and services to energy companies, the chemical and petrochemical industries and defense and rescue services.

Fukra said he worked full time, from 7 A.M. to 4 P.M., earning NIS 8.7 per hour. In his last year of work, he made NIS 100 a day. The minimum wage for someone who works a six-day week is currently NIS 154 a day. When Fukra started working for the company, the minimum wage was NIS 118.6 a day.

Moreover, he received no benefits, such as vacation days and sick leave. And his wages were paid only on the 18th of each month - later than the deadline mandated by law - which constitutes illegal withholding of pay.

In October 2008, Fukra was fired with no warning and no severance pay, despite his years of employment. All his attempts to obtain his rights were thwarted, the suit said.

The company countered that Fukra was not fired, but quit. It also said that according to the law in force in that location - Jordanian law - he received everything he was owed. The industrial area, it argued, is no different from any other plant in a Palestinian city like Tul Karm or Nablus, which means it is subject to Jordanian law.

It also denied Fukra's claim that he received no benefits and was consistently paid late, and said he does not deserve severance pay because he quit and refused to return, despite his employer's requests.