The workers of several municipalities in the Gaza Strip started strikes recently in a protest over long belated payment of their salaries.
At approximately 10am on Monday 20 August 2007, the employees of Jabaliya An-Nazla, north of the Gaza Strip, commenced a strike.
They said the step was to protest a months-long delay in payment of their salaries, which started as early as July 2006.
The sanitation and water departments and the administration are excluded.
Workers said they would evaluate the progress of their step, as well as its repercussions on Saturday 25 August 2007.
They did not rule out the possibility to escalate their strike.
The employees of Khan Younis municipality also commenced an open strike on 19 August 2007 on similar grounds.
Additionally, the employees of Gaza municipality; the largest municipality in the Strip, had followed suit on Saturday 11 August 2007, also excluding the sanitation and water services; for the running of which an emergency committee was formed.
Municipality workers had gone on strike on many occasions in 2006 and 2007; also protesting the delay or lack of payment and the resulted hardships they suffered.
The last strike was in April 2007.
The municipalities workers' crisis has been aggravated by the financial sanctions imposed by Israel and international community, as well as the Israeli closure, since after Hamas won the legislative elections in early 2006.
Palestinian governments, including the current emergency government, made partial payments to civil servants and municipality workers.
However, the latter were paid on fewer occasions.
In August 2007, they have not been paid for a period ranging between eight and ten months.
Despite the strikes, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has failed to find solutions to their crisis as it did with civil servants.
The municipalities' continued failure to pay the salaries of their employees is the main cause of the strike.
Municipalities' workers have called the PNA for equal treatment; i.
that they are paid when other civil servants are paid.
However, no practical steps have been taken by either the municipalities or the PNA.
Al Mezan Center asserts that the municipal employees' demands are legitimate, and so is their right to strike, as stipulated in the Palestinian Basic Law.
The current conditions, added to the unequal treatment they have received, give their strike greater moral power.
Al Mezan views with much concern the rapidly deteriorated environmental and health conditions in the Gaza Strip owing to the halt of garbage collection and letting it mount it in neighborhoods.
The scenes of people burning garbage, in order to combat insects and smell, in Gaza's streets is quite common now.
This is seriously harmful to human health and to the environment.
Therefore, Al Mezan calls upon the PNA and its Ministry of Local Government to find workable and permanent solutions to this crisis without delay.
The PNA must respond to the legitimate demands of the municipalities' workers and evade the Gaza Strip a new health and environment crisis.