Striking Palestinians - Gili Cohen Magen
The striking Palestinian workers during a meeting in a tent they erected outside the quarry. Photo by Gili Cohen Magen
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An unprecedented strike by Palestinian workers against an Israeli-owned business began last week, over the demand to improve their labor conditions.

The 40 Palestinian workers at the Sal'it Adumim quarry near Mishor Adumim in the West Bank are demanding that management sign a collective wage agreement with them.

For the past 18 months the workers have been organizing with the help of the workers rights group Maan.

After a long struggle, management finally recognized the workers' committee and began negotiating with it. About six weeks ago, management and labor reached a draft agreement, but workers say that management is refusing to sign it and is avoiding meetings with the workers' committee.

Last week the workers decided to go on strike until management signs the agreement.

The workers are asking for a gradual increase in wages, which now range between NIS 18 and NIS 26 per hour, a pension plan and safer and healthier working conditions.

They have complained about that they receive partial pension payments only, that salary payments are delayed and that dismissals are arbitrary.

"We work in the desert, in the heat. We have to be treated differently than in other areas," said Niaz Kadadha, of Ramallah, who has been working in the quarry for 17 years. "We aren't asking for anything out of the ordinary," he added.

Most Palestinians working for Israelis in the West Bank suffer from poor working conditions, especially considering Israeli labor laws.

Spontaneous strikes have broken out against such companies in the past, but this is the first time workers have organized and gone on strike to demand a collective wage agreement.

The High Court of Justice has in the past recognized the right of Palestinians working in Israeli settlements to receive conditions according to Israeli law. However, the ruling has not yet been tested against against a private company.

"This agreement brings the company from the 19th to the 20th century, not even the 21st. We didn't get everything we wanted, but it's something we can live with," Assaf Adiv, of Maan, said, adding that the workers would not go back to work without it.

Management declined to comment.