Joint Open Letter to the International Labour Organisation

Joint Open Letter to the International Labour Organisation

On Friday May 1st, 70 local, regional and international organisation sent a letter  to the International Labour Organisation to demand protection for all Palestinian workers during and after the Corona-virus pandemic. In support of this letter, a petition was created for individuals to add their signatures and extend support to Palestinian workers' rights. PWWSD was one of the organisations that joined the call to amplify the voices of Palestinian male and female workers. Below is the text of the full joint letter.

Protect Palestinian workers during and after COVID-19
Joint Open Letter to the International Labour Organization

For the attention of Mr. Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General

Dear Mr Ryder,

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, trade unions, and citizens across the world, address this joint open letter to the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the occasion of International Workers' Day, urging you to take action in the framework of your mandate to protect the rights, livelihoods, and dignity of Palestinian workers, men and women, and their families during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work has confirmed the essential role that ILO, one hundred years since its creation, must play for the achievement of 'social justice, democracy and the promotion of universal and lasting peace.'[i]

We welcome the ILO's recent statement calling on governments around the world to take action to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. As stressed by the ILO, 'It is only by implementing occupational safety and health measures that we can protect the lives of workers, their families and the larger communities, ensure work continuity and economic survival.'[ii] We also welcome the ILO's Palestinian Decent Work Programme, as a serious effort to the realisation of fundamental principles and rights at work for Palestinian women and men.[iii]

Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated vulnerabilities linked to poverty, discrimination, conflict and occupation. In Palestine, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront Israel's regime of institutionalised racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people as a whole, which amounts to the crime of apartheid.[iv] As highlighted in your latest 2019 report on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, 'the Palestinians themselves have little scope to improve their destiny. The Israeli occupation is stifling in every respect, dominating almost every aspect of Palestinian life.'[v] Throughout the occupied Palestinian territory, the Israeli occupying authorities have continued to indiscriminately target Palestinians' livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic, including through attacks on farmers, shepherds, and fishermen in the Gaza Strip.[vi]

During COVID-19, the susceptibility of Palestinian workers to the pandemic has been compounded, with the Israeli occupying authorities continuing to prioritize economic considerations over the rights and dignity of Palestinian workers. In fact, with the start of the outbreak, the Israeli occupying authorities allowed approximately 60,000 Palestinian workers employed in Israel to temporarily reside in Israel for a maximum period of two months during the emergency period, with Israeli employers mandated to ensure adequate housing, proper sanitation, and food for workers.[vii] Yet, there have been reports of dire housing conditions workers face, including sleeping at construction sites or in greenhouses,[viii] while Palestinian workers displaying symptoms of the flu have been thrown at checkpoints without coordination to ensure their treatment.[ix]  Israel has failed to test Palestinian workers for COVID-19, thereby failing to take adequate measures to curb the spread of the pandemic in the occupied Palestinian territory and undermining containment and mitigation efforts by the Palestinian Authority for returning workers. The Palestinian Health Ministry has found that workers, their families, and their contacts make up a majority of COVID-19 infections in the West Bank.[x]

As we commemorate International Workers' Day and the achievements in advancing labour rights across the globe, Palestinian workers employed in Israel and in illegal Israeli settlements continue to endure dire working conditions, receive lower wages than their Israeli counterparts, and are denied access to healthcare and other benefits, amongst other discriminatory policies and practices of the Israeli occupation.[xi] In particular, the Israeli construction sector, which is dominated by Palestinian workers from both sides of the Green Line and which has continued as an 'essential service' during COVID-19, is considered to be one of the most dangerous sectors for work-related accidents, as it lacks the necessary supervision by the Israeli government, whose responsibility it is to ensure that Israeli employers uphold Palestinian workers' rights.[xii]

As highlighted by the ILO, COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of economies across the globe; with the pandemic having the potential 'in the longer-term [to] dramatically amplify cycles of poverty and inequality.'[xiii] It is therefore more urgent than ever to address the prolonged denial of Palestinian rights as the root causes depriving Palestinians of an adequate standard of living. Notably, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs have recalled Israel's legal duty to ensure that Palestinians receive essential health services,[xiv] expressed concerns over Israel impeding efforts to effectively control and mitigate the effects of COVID-19, and called for equal access to treatment and testing without discrimination.[xv]

Accordingly, we the undersigned call on you today, as Director-General of the ILO, to:

  1. Send an urgent letter to the Minister of Labour and Minister of Health in Israel, calling on the Israeli occupying authorities to urgently provide Palestinian workers with their three month wages during the emergency situation, as per Israeli labour law; to take all necessary measures, including with employers to guarantee healthcare coverage during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 emergency; to provide Palestinian workers staying in Israel with adequate housing, water, food, and sanitation, as essential to upholding their rights and mitigating the effects of COVID-19 amongst workers and their families upon return;
  2. Invite the 109th session of the International Labour Conference to hold Israel, the occupying power, accountable for its violation of Palestinian workers' rights, through the adequate supervision of the Committee of Experts for the implementation of the recommendations of the report on the situation of workers in the occupied territories and for the application of the conventions it has ratified.

Yours sincerely,

List of Co-Signing Organizations

Organisations worldwide

  1. Asociación Alnakba, Venezuela
  2. Asociación Árabe Guatemalteca, Guatemala
  3. Asociación Canaán, Venezuela
  4. Asociación Comunidad Palestina, Guatemala
  5. Asociación Salvadoreña Palestina
  6. Association Belgo-Palestinienne (ABP)
  7. Association France-Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)
  8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  9. Cine Fértil, Argentina
  10. CNCD-11.11.11, Belgium
  11. Comunidad Colombo-Palestina, Colombia
  12. Comunidad Palestina de Chile
  13. Een Andere Joodse Stem (Another Jewish Voice), Belgium
  14. Fundación Cultural Colombo Palestina
  15. Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network
  16. Instituto Brasil Palestina (IBRASPAL)
  17. Jewish Voice for Peace, United States
  18. Juventud Chileno-Árabe por Palestina de Valdivia
  19. Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples (MRAP)
  20. Mouvement International de la Réconciliation (MIR)
  21. Organización Solidaria con Palestina (OSP-Chile)
  22. Palestine Solidarity Campaign, United Kingdom
  23. Palestine Speaks - Coalition for Palestinian Rights and Against Racism, Germany
  24. Plateforme des ONG françaises pour la Palestine
  25. The Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD)
  26. The Palestinian National Institute for NGOs (PNIN)
  27. Unión Árabe de Cuba
  28. Unión General de Estudiantes Palestinos (UGEP-Chile)
  29. Unión Palestina de América Latina (UPAL)
  30. Youth Development Association (YDA)

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), comprising:

  1. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
  2. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights
  3. Al-Haq – Law in the Service of Mankind
  4. Aldameer Association for Human Rights
  5. Defense for Children International (DCI) – Palestine
  6. Hurryyat – Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
  7. Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)
  8. Muwatin Institute for Democracy and Human Rights – Observer Member
  9. Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
  10. Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies (RCHRS)
  11. The Independent Commission for Human Rights (Ombudsman Office) – Observer Member

The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), comprising:

  1. Agricultural Development Association (PARC)
  2. Alrowwad Cultural and Arts Society
  3. Arab Center for Agricultural Development
  4. Democracy and Workers' Rights Center (DWRC)
  5. Early Childhood Resource Center (ECRC)
  6. Health Work Committees (HWC)
  7. Human Rights and Democracy Media Center – SHAMS
  8. Land Research Center (LRC)
  9. Ma'an Development Center
  10. Musawa – The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession
  11. Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR)
  12. Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy (PCPD)
  13. Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association
  14. Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS)
  15. Palestinian Women's Development Society (PWDS)
  16. Palestinian Working Women Society for Development (PWWSD)
  17. Psycho-Social Counselling Center for Women (PSCCW)
  18. Sareyyet Ramallah
  19. Tamer Institute for Community Education
  20. Teacher Creativity Center
  21. The Palestinian Businesswomen's Association – ASALA
  22. Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
  23. Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC)
  24. Union of Palestinian Women's Committees (UPWC)
  25. Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC)
  26. Women's Studies Centre
  27. Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) – Palestine
  28. Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) – Ramallah

[i] ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 108th Session in
Geneva on 21 June 2019, Preamble.
[ii] ILO, “Protect workers both now and after lockdowns ease, says ILO,” 28 April 2020, available at:
[iii] ILO, “The Palestinian Decent Work Programme 2018–2022,” April 2018, available at:
[iv] See, notably, Al-Haq, “Israeli Apartheid Undermines Palestinian Right to Health Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic,” 7 April 2020, available at:
[v] ILO, The situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, Report of the Director-General, International Labour Conference, 108th Session, 2019, ILC.108/Dg/App, para. 152, available at:
[vi] Al-Haq, “Israel's Gross Violations of Human Rights in the Face of COVID-19 (Reporting Period 8 - 29 March 2020),” 3 April 2020, available at:
[vii] See, for example, Lee Yaron and Hagar Shezaf, “For Palestinian Construction Workers in Israel, the Coronavirus Is Just One More Danger,” Haaretz, 20 March 2020, available at:
[viii] See, e.g., Suha Arraf, “'The moment a worker is sick, they throw him to the checkpoint like a dog,'” +972 Magazine, 24 March 2020, available at:
[ix] See Akram Al-Waara, “Coronavirus: Palestinian workers left in the lurch as Israel reneges on containment plan,” Middle East Eye, 25 March 2020, available at: also Adam Ragson, “PA accuses Israel of abandoning sick Palestinian worker at West Bank checkpoint,” The Times of Israel, 24 March 2020, available at:; Wafa, “Israel's treatment of Palestinian workers is inhumane, says government spokesman,” 24 March 2020, available at:
[x] Al-Haq, “Civil Society Groups Send Appeal to UN Special Procedures on the Rights and Dignity of Palestinian Workers in Israel during COVID-19,” 15 April 2020, available at:
[xi] Al-Haq, “Occupied Livelihoods: Palestinians Striving for their Right to Work,” 1 May 2012, available at:
[xii] See supra note x.
[xiii] ILO, “COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of our economies,” 27 March 2020, available at:
[xiv] OHCHR, “COVID-19: Israel has 'legal duty' to ensure that Palestinians in OPT receive essential health services – UN expert,” 19 March 2020, available at:
[xv] OHCHR, “COVID-19: Israel must release Palestinian prisoners in vulnerable situation, say UN experts,” 24 April 2020, available at: