Palestinian civil servants challenge PM Fayyad

A Palestinian public sector trade union on Friday threatened an "uprising" against Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's government after he said he would dock workers' pay if they expand current strike action.

Palestinian civil servants challenge PM Fayyad

The strike highlights tension between Fayyad, a former World Bank economist and political independent, and elements of the long-dominant Fatah movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas appointed Fayyad last year after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.

"This is a political strike," said one independent minister in Fayyad's cabinet. "Some Fatah members have been putting continuous pressure on Abbas to bring Fatah into government."

Union leaders, many themselves Fatah members, denied any political intent.

But the action comes after months of complaint from some Fatah figures that Fayyad is ignoring the interests of the movement once led by the late Yasser Arafat and demands from Fatah officials for a greater role for the party in government.

Abbas, however, has stressed his support for Fayyad, who has made economic development a priority as Abbas tries to negotiate a peace deal with Israel to create a Palestinian state.

Fayyad, who is resisting higher wage claims from civil servants, said his administration would dock pay from workers for each day they strike -- a departure from previous practice in which employees have been able to stop work on full pay.

Union leader Bassam Zakarneh said Fayyad's move was illegal and that workers would resist the threat:

"We will do whatever it takes to force him to pay us our due. Fayyad is pushing us towards an uprising against his policies," Zakarneh said, adding that workers could go on indefinite strike until their demands were met.

Zakarneh, a Fatah member, said the current limited strike action was not politically motivated.

"Warning strikes"

The union recently held a number of brief "warning strikes" demanding the government pay overdue wages which were held back when a Hamas-led administration elected in early 2006 failed to pay workers because of a suspension of West aid payments.

A three-month civil service strike ended in January 2007.

Western powers and Israel imposed an embargo on the Hamas-led government despite election victory.

Since then donor money has begun to flow back into the Palestinian government's coffers and Fayyad's administration resumed monthly salary payments.

Fayyad has said about 75 percent of wage arrears have already been paid and many of those on the lowest incomes have already received their full wages: "It will be impossible to meet any additional demands," Fayyad said on Thursday.


Agencies

Last Mod: 04 Nisan 2008, 14:58
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