The service sector globally currently provides almost 70% of the existing employment opportunities. The trend keeps on changing due to variations in composition of working populations and nature of labour relations. This has necessitated employers to formulate correct measures, which promote productivity and peaceful running of organisations. Good employment relationships are crucial components for well being of any organisation; because employees always seek to get maximum satisfaction and returns from their work. For better productivity, employers have to follow specific set standard, and employ correct management methods that will ensure workers satisfaction. In addition to job satisfaction and correct working conditions, employees always expect their employers to guarantee them job security and advancement opportunities (Leat, 2001, pp.7-8).
On the other hand, employers also have expectations on their employees, for example, employers expect employees to always improve their performance, adhere to minimum levels of work proficiency, be flexible to changes, and have teamwork abilities. In addition, because organisation’s goals always take precedence employers expect their employees to be dedicated towards achieving the set standards of organisational goals (p.9). Employee relations therefore are the general practise, which aims to maintain correct and ethical relations between employers and employees. It is generally concerned with preventing and giving solutions to problems, which may occur during work. The practise aims to ensure values such as equality, respect, and trust receives priority among workers and their employers (NASA, 2009, Para. 1-2).
Many factors either internal or external to an organisation affect active engagement of employees. Majority of practises embraced by organisations depend on the management style, safety practises, work characteristics, nature of the work force and working schedules. On the other hand, formulation of employee relations systems depend on various factors that are political, social, legal, or economical. Each of these factors has different effects on the overall functioning of the employer-employee relation systems. Although in common practise management bodies give employees’ views consideration during policy formulation and implementation, the overall management patterns remain solely a function of organisations’ management team (Judge and Gennard, 2005, pp. 242-243).
Majority of political, social, economic and legal factors are external to an organisation. These factors act as stimulants; sometimes constraints to the well being of organisations. For example, due to the present economic recession in global economies, majority of organisations have felt and adjusted to the impact differently. For instance, the UK car industry faces increased demand deficits; hence, majority of car firms have incurred losses, which have forced managements to shut down some plants and send off some workers. These changes in the economy have left many employees with less job security hence, reduced employee relations (Umarch, 2009, pp.5-6). Within the external environment of a firm, many social factors affect the functioning of an organisation. Societies have work norms and values they cherish whose violation results to unrests in work places. In addition, social cultural factors dictate the ability of an organisation to have access to resources markets. Going against certain society’s norms means that viability of an organisation remains at stake; hence, policies on workers always have to take into consideration impacts of such policies on societal relationships. Politics plays an important role in decision making on employment patterns, wage systems, and workers’ rights. The ruling class determine majority of business practises, which societies embrace. On the other hand, legal systems give directions on organisation’s activities where in most cases; politics determine the nature of labour legal systems. Hence, the importance of external forces on employee relations (Ludlam, Wood, Heery, and Taylor, 2003, pp.609-615).
Trade unions play the important function of guiding and governing employment relationships among employees and employers. They usually represent employees’ views to employers and the general society. They achieve this via cooperative bargaining to management bodies on workers’ rights (Umarch, 2009, p.7).
“Palestine is a country located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, occupied by Arabs and Jewish people. It is one the Middle East countries that has been greatly affected by continuous wars with neighbouring countries. The country suffers from increased rates of unemployment and low earnings among its citizenry. For example due to negative impacts of the Persian Gulf War that took place in 1991, a good proportion of Palestinian workers sought refugee in their original homes in the Gaza strip. This made Palestine to plunge into an economic crisis, which greatly affected employment status of its citizens (Columbia University press, 2003, Para. 1-6). Palestine has two primary ruling parties: the labour party and Zionism. The unrests facing the country have made labour rules to undergo many transformations. Because of the increasing labour problems, Palestinian workers have tried to come up with strategies that ensure the system guarantees them job security and satisfaction. For example, workers have come up with worker unions which are independent, and whose main philosophy should be democratic leadership. In addition, there exist union mergers among old democratic trade unions and the newly formed trade unions (Richardson, 2007, Para. 1-3).
Employee Relations System Overview in Palestine
Majority of Palestine citizens live in the west bank and the Gaza strip. Due to fluctuations in Palestine’s economy and increasing unemployment rate, workers in Palestine face many challenges. Young people are the most affected by unemployment, whereby majority are women. There is increased job insecurity in Palestine hence majority of its workforce have migrated to Israel, where still working conditions are hard. There are extensive discriminations on Palestinian citizens on age because Israel assumes Palestinian citizens who are 35 years and over, pose great danger to security. Workers in industries lack required protection from hazards, which has contributed greatly to deteriorating health and economic conditions of majority of Palestinian workers. Majority of foreign workers in Israel receive better treatment in contrast to Palestinian citizens, this is because their reliability according to Israel is less as compared citizens of other countries. In addition, Palestinian workers command more pay as compared to other foreign workers, hence the discrimination pattern in employment. The condition is so worse that, for Palestinians to get employment in Israel, they must have magnetic identification cards, which is not a requirement to other foreign workers. In addition, unless Israel employers seek the service of Palestinians, Israel denies Palestinian workers work permits, which has contributed to the currently widespread of abuse of workers’ rights (Palestinians human rights monitor, 1999, Para. 1-8).
Previously majority of Middle East’s trade unions in most instances followed labour policies primarily dictated by U.S., although Palestinian’s trade organisations and liberation campaigners have always fought to the U.S policies on employment. For example, in 2004, Al-Awda, and other trade organisations some not based in Palestine, for example New York City labour against the war (NYCLAW) combined forces to campaign for equal rights and treatment for Palestinian’s workers in foreign countries (Anzaldo, 2005, Para. 1-3).
Palestinian Employment Law
Before amendments of the labour law in 2001, Palestine used the old Jordanian and Egyptian law. The Palestine government based the new law on international labour organisation and Arab law standards. The new law guarantees each Palestine citizen equal employment opportunities regardless of their ethnic affiliation or disabilities. Secondly it law allows unionisation of workers in all fields whereby the unions have to ensure they meet their workers demands. All employers are required to submit worker records to the government and minor employment is highly prohibited in Palestine. The law also, dictate that all employers must always provide proper working environments to their workers. In addition, at all times employers must employ correct conflict solving measures when dealing with employees (Palestinian economic policy institute, 2008, p.1).
Role of the Palestinian State and the Law
The Palestinian state is always fighting for its citizen’s liberation from exploitation they are currently facing in Israel. The state has two law combinations, which ensure that the law protects its worker locally and in Israel. Although catering for one group of its workers (those in Israel) is hard because, Israel has its own labour laws that all workers must follow. In addition, continuous war between these two countries has made it hard for Palestine to ensure that local laws protect its workers in Israel. The state always seeks to ensure that employers respect workers’ rights in such as job security, injury, medical leaves, and retirement. In 2001, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, Palestine implemented new labour law, which was to ensure that Palestine citizens who worked in Israel had equal work opportunities as other workers. Although the law was important, it failed to address concepts that dealt with workers’ pension and risks involved in work, hence the continuous suffering of Palestinians (Kanafani and Cobham, 2004, pp. 156-157).
On the other hand, although the government supports worker’s rights, there have been many conflicting issues between the government and trade unions. Palestinian trade unions are always in constant fights with the government due to varying political ideologies in the country. A section of Palestine trade unions and labour organisations support Zionism, whereas others support labour party policies. This has fragmented efforts of labour unions to fight for its workers caused primarily by division in political ideologies. For example, in 1996, Arafat’s government disbanded the Palestinian general federation of trade unions (PGFTU), on grounds that it supported opposition policies (Nissen, 1996, Para. 1-2).
Trade unions and labour unions play the primary role of ensuring all employers respect workers rights. This is not an exception in Palestine, a country faced with political turmoil and boundary conflicts with Israel. For success in politics, all governments fight to win the confidence of trade unions because they are workers representatives to authorities.
Palestine’s political turmoil backdates to 1945, where two main communities existed in Palestine: Arabs and Jewish. Differences in political ideologies between this communities and beliefs held by each are the main cause of the currently existing problems. In addition, U.S.’s support for a section of the community has been the great impediment to achieving peace among these communities. Palestinian citizens still face impacts of historical divisions even today, and the effects are more adverse due to existence of many militia groups that are fighting.
Before the onset of war, Palestinians workers’ conditions were good; that is after the signing of the Oslo peace accord. Due to peace, there was increase in economic activity, hence to fight for worker rights trade many trade unions sprout up. Merging of political ideologies led to extensive recruitment of labour to the military and other business sectors. Throughout this period for the first time, the government of Palestine granted trade unions some bargaining power. In addition, throughout this period both Israel and Palestine’s governments responded to worker strikes because the Oslo pact reconciled wide political ideologies held by communities living in the west bank and Gaza region. The political pacts focussed on building opportunities for their citizens because majority of obstacles that existed previously were diminishing. For example, Israel lessened the previous imposed restrictions on migration of Palestinian workers, and it adopted policies, which improved Palestinian worker’s rights (Najjab, 2005, Para. 3-7).
This condition was short-lived; because the taking over of sections of Israel by Hamas has heightened the situation, where by there ha been continuous conflicts between Israel and Palestine. Peace initiatives have achieved little; because Hamas uses Muslim, political ideologies where as the Jewish in Palestine follow Christian ideologies. Unemployment rates have increased rapidly and Palestinian citizens are loosing jobs in both Palestine and Israel. The working conditions are so worse due to insecurity caused by suicide bombers and closure of Israel-Palestine border. As some analysts argue employment trends in Palestine aim to eliminate Jews as it is the only guarantee of political survival. Both Israel and Palestine use strong military action to quell demonstrations organised by trade and labour unions, which has grossly violated worker rights because of the clear neglect by political factions and the police. Majority of workers oppose the authoritarian power applied in Palestine and Israel to solve problems, hence the increasing formation of trade unions that fight for workers’ rights. For example in 2007, the Hamas attacked PGFTU head offices in Gaza and threatened military action if the union did not follow the Hamas rule. The union had to give in because the health insurance of its workers was at stake (Bergen, 2002, Para. 1-6).
Growth in the economy of nations guarantees its citizens good working conditions, satisfaction of wants and peaceful co-existence among all parties of its communities. Due to many wars that have rocked Palestine, each dawn its economic standards are deteriorating because the government has dedicated majority of its funds to the military. Since the onset of war Palestine’s economy has received many drawbacks, which has greatly affected workers wage earnings and the overall domestic growth of Palestine. In addition, the deteriorating economy has had negative impacts on majority of trade unions, because in most cases the institutions lack enough funds to support their workers’ needs. During the peace process time Palestine’s economy received a major boost from its workers in Israel, but due to closure of the border, the economy has gradually deteriorated (Arnon, 1997, pp. 67-93).
Since the onset of the war, the government has denied some trade unions access to specific industrial zone sectors. Workers in this sectors lack protection by trade unions because they do not have the funds to support them fully. For example, PGFTU is unable to cater for needs of its workers and even ascertain the working conditions of its workers in areas such as Barkan and Salfit. The impacts of the presently deteriorating economy are so adverse on the trade unions; to an extent, that majority of Palestinian workers have lost confidence in trade unions and labour organisations. This has led to failing of activities organised by trade unions and labour organisations such as demonstrations, hence less impact in fighting for workers’ rights. Before the war (during the peace process), although working conditions were bad, workers to some level had respect for various trade unions, because to some level they could meet worker demands. The onset of war has disrupted the union’s activities whereby unions are struggling to meet their financial targets and the same time attending to workers needs (Dropkin, 2009, Para. 1-9). The financial deficits faced by organisations have been major forces for formation of employee organisations, which aim always to ensure organisations maintain good employee relations.
Efforts by trade unions to struggle and ensure its workers are paid have hit a snag sometimes, due to financial crisis facing majority of Palestinian organisations. Constant bombings and wars between the Hamas and Fatah have made companies to face many losses; hence, meeting their obligations is a big problem. Workers in such companies sometimes fear reporting their employers to labour organisations because of fear of their security. This has greatly contributed to ongoing strengthening of employee relations where by labour organisations are fighting to upgrade the economic status of its members.
In addition to political and economic factors, social factors have played an important role in shaping Palestine’s employee relations. Overexploitation and domination of Palestine’s workforce by Israel, has been the major reason for struggle of majority of Palestine’s trade unions. Israel aims to form an exclusive ethnic group of only the Jewish people. The Zionism political orientation has always received opposition from most Middle East countries due to values it embraces. The migrations of Arabs to idle east helped to propagate this political ideology, which has threatened the culture and values of most Middle East countries. This political ideology follows almost same principle as the previously used ruling system of apartheid in South Africa. Due to its degrading nature, labour organizations have always fought to eliminate the discriminatory nature of such rules advocated by Zionism. Palestine’s trade unions have always fought to eliminate such practises among its citizenry, although constant wars are great impediments to such efforts. Labour organisations have always fought against discriminations that its workers receive in some regions of the country under militia control, and in Israel.
On the other ethnic differentiation has been the major factor to continuous fights by trade unions. Majority of Palestinians are fellahin, while a small proportion is involved in the industry sector. Fellahin consists primarily farmers whose economic status is far much below when compared to individuals who run the industry and transportation sectors. The influx of the Jewish people has brought the continuous struggles and discriminations. Hence, this led to formation of trade and labour unions to ensure all workers regardless of their ethnic background get equal access to employment and fair treatment (Minter, 2007, Para. 1-6).
In conclusion, employee relations have deteriorated in Palestine due to many divisions that political, social, and economic factors have caused. There is great variation in employment trends and practises among employees in both Israel and Palestine. The Hamas-Fatah war has heightened the situation, whereby employers are based their recruitment and worker treatment patterns on workers’ ethnic differences. This calls for intervention from both local and international human right bodies. In addition, the international labour organisation should come up with measures, whose adoption will help to solve the Palestine problem. The ILO should put sanctions on organisations that are violating workers’ rights, hence the need to strengthen and support labour organisations existing in Palestine.
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