Palestinian teachers prepare to strike after PA fails to pay salaries

Sunday December 16, 2012 09:13 by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC News

The Palestinian Authority has failed to pay the salaries of teachers and other civil servants in the West Bank for months, largely due to the withholding of most of its funds by Israeli and U.S. Authorities. As a result, teachers announced Saturday that they will take strike action this week.

Palestinian schoolchildren in Gaza (image by Mohammed Omer)

Following the vote for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations last month, Israeli authorities seized nearly $100 million USD that was supposed to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority for employee salaries. Instead, the Israelis used it to pay themselves for alleged electricity debts owed by the PA to Israel.

Withholding the Palestinian Authority’s money has been a punitive measure employed multiple times in the past by Israeli authorities, including in November of 2011 after the Palestinian Authority was granted statehood status by the United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The money is Palestinian tax money that is collected by Israeli authorities, who refuse to allow the Palestinian Authority to collect the taxes themselves, and withhold the money whenever they disagree politically with a decision made by the Palestinian Authority.

In this case, the Palestinian Authority was already severely strained financially when the November seizure of tax money took place. By September of 2012, the Authority already had a $400 million USD deficit for the year. Much of this deficit was due to the failure of international donors to provide the financial assistance they had promised.

Around 180,000 Palestinians are employed by the Palestinian Authority, and the salaries of these employees, in addition to retired employees, support and feed one quarter of the Palestinian population of the West Bank.

In November, Palestinian teachers went on strike after not receiving salaries for two months. Now, they are three months behind in receiving their salaries, and have renewed calls for a strike.

They will begin with a partial strike on Wednesday and Thursday, and continue indefinitely after that, according to a union spokesperson. They will call off the strike if the Palestinian Authority pays their salaries.

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