Palestinian workers go on strike

Finance minister will ask Arab League members to pay $2bn promised since 2002.

    Palestinian teachers carried out a similar protest in the West Bank earlier this week [EPA]
    Union leaders said up to 80,000 Palestinian government workers took part in Wednesday's strike which shut down government ministries and buildings.
     
    Teachers strike
     
    Hundreds of public school teachers took part in a one-day strike earlier this week demanding full wages and back pay.
     
    A 133-day strike by civil employees paralysed the Palestinian Authority last year and some Palestinian officials fear a similar scenario in the coming weeks.
     
    Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian finance minister, told union leaders this week he would pay at least half salaries to government workers, but not their full wages, because the Western embargo remained in place.
     
    Fayyad said Israel's withholding of monthly Palestinian tax revenues, now estimated at $600 million, had further increased the Palestinian deficit.
     
    "The legitimate question is for how long can we continue like this," he said.
     
    Fayyad said that he also hoped to establish a new fund that would allow donor countries to provide aid while formally maintaining their boycott of the Hamas-led government.
     
    Plea to Arabs
     
    Fayyad also said he is counting on receiving at least $55 million a month from Arab League members and about $15 million in local revenues to cover about half of the Palestinian Authority's monthly payroll.
     
    Fayyad is to meet Arab League officials next week to try to persuade Arab states to pay the $2 billion they have promised the Palestinians since 2002.
     
    Fayyad said he also hopes to collect an additional $250 million pledged by Saudi Arabia last summer.
     
    He warned of a financial crisis if funds were not paid to the Palestinian Authority: "The financial situation is going through a crisis, a grave crisis".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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