Palestinian employers hold workshop to discuss draft social security legislation

PNN/Ramallah

Ahead of the expected adoption of the first ever Palestinian social security law for private sector workers and their families through a presidential decree early next week, the International Labor Organization (ILO) convened a three-day workshop to enhance Palestinian employers’ understanding and unify their positions on the draft law.

A total of 40 senior participants from various Palestinian chambers of commerce attended the workshop, which served to build on the results of a previous meeting of Palestinian employers’ organisations hosted by the ILO in September 2015 , as part of ongoing efforts to institute a sustainable and comprehensive social security system in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).

The workshop was a joint initiative between the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities (ACTEMP), the ILO Jerusalem office, the Jordan Chamber of Industry, and the Social Security Corporation of Jordan.

“We brought Palestinian employers from the West Bank and Gaza to discuss their concerns regarding the articles of the draft social security law that overlap with the current Palestinian Labour Law,” said ILO Senior Employers Specialist for Arab States Lama Oueijan.

“These discussions will allow employers to present a unified position at the upcoming Palestinian Labour Law Reform Tripartite Committee discussions. This falls in line with ILO efforts to support the training and capacity building of employers’ organisations in the Arab States region, so that they become involved in all policy discussions in a constructive and well-informed manner, and reflect a unified position at the national level.”

Palestinian employers from both the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip attended the event, putting a unified Palestinian employers’ position at the table and enabling participants to take Gaza’s special circumstances into consideration, given that representatives from Gaza are not part of Palestinian tripartite social dialogue committees.

During the workshop, the Social Security Cooperation of Jordan reiterated its commitment to provide technical assistance to establish a Palestinian social security system and train tripartite partners.

The Jordan Chamber of Industry committed to helping employers’ organizations in the oPt understand the financial ramifications of a social security system on employers, and highlighted the importance of actuarial studies.

Hussam Hajjawi, the employers’ representative at the National Palestinian Tripartite Social Security Committee, commended the level of joint cooperation between the ILO and social partners, stating:

“We worked together extensively, and we agreed on some issues while on others we had different points of view. But we all had the same aim of passing a Palestinian Social Security law that responds to the needs, ambitions, security considerations and economic conditions of Palestinians, and to address the huge disparities that exist in Palestine.”

Ursula Kulke, ILO Senior Social Security Specialist for the Arab States, said:

“After three years of ILO-supported deliberations, finally a deal was reached on this much-needed law amongst representatives of the government as well as workers’ and employers’ organizations, and ultimately the Council of Ministers.”

Rasha Al Shurafa, Senior Programme Officer at the ILO Representative Office in Jerusalem, noted that:

“The workshop was interactive and brought important contributions from practitioners at the Jordanian Chamber of Industry and the Jordanian Social Security Corporation. Their contribution highlighted the important role employers’ organizations play in policy-making, governance and implementation of social security systems. They also outlined best practices and lessons learned after more than 30 years of practical experience in Jordan.”

Jamal Jawabreh, Director-General of the Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture stated in his closing statement at the workshop:

“When discussions were first launched on establishing a social security system in Palestine, we were all skeptical about the possibility of realising such a major breakthrough. But now, with the superb support of the ILO, this possibility is about to become a reality. The ILO is our strategic partner and we look forward to its future involvement in all other national socio-economic policy discussions.”