Workers Under COVID-19

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Strategies put forward to confront the spread of COVID-19 put a huge strain on the global economy. Worldwide, exploited workers at the lower scale of the labour market are especially affected, masses of workers have been made redundant or forced to continue to work in unsafe environments to sustain themselves and their families.

In Israel, the government took swift measures and imposed additional restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement on both sides of the Green Line and minimized economic activity in sectors deemed unessential. These measures have a particular impact on over 141,000 Palestinian workers dependent on jobs in the Israeli market (in both the settlements and in Israel), due to the systematic de-development of the Palestinian economy.

Dependency on these jobs renders workers uniquely vulnerable to exploitation and precarious working conditions, amplified and exacerbated by COVID-19. Large numbers of Palestinian workers have been made redundant. However, the dependence of key sectors in the Israeli economy on Palestinian labour, as well as Israel’s interest in curbing the total collapse of the Palestinian economy, has led the Israeli government to take exceptional measures; some 55,000 workers retention and future renewal of work permits have been conditioned on them not returning to their families in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for at least a month, a time frame subject to extension according to Israeli economic needs, with no guarantees of adequate accommodations or access to health care.

Israeli employers are eager to employ cheap Palestinian labour, but they become dispensable as soon as they need care. In theory, Palestinian workers are entitled to the same rights as Israeli workers. 
Israel is capitalizing on the Covid-19 crisis to further entrench its surveillance apparatus and control over Palestinians. Workers must willingly agree for Israel to tap their cellphones to check the status of their permits.
Palestinian workers' remittances from Israel made up 25% of wages in all sectors and 14% of the Palestinian GDP in 2018. Since late March, over 60,000 Palestinians have lost their jobs within the Green Line.
Around 20 thousand Palestinian workers continue to work in Israel in sectors deemed “essential” for the economy. No official Israeli body has taken responsibility to oversee their work and accommodation conditions and they have no access to testing.
Pushed to work for Israeli employers- "I prefer to be home like the Jews and like you, with a mask. But what will my wife say if I don't have money? It's a choice of no-choice", said a Palestinian construction worker on a site in Tel Aviv.
Palestinian workers in Israel are employed in labour intensive jobs in unsafe conditions. Some 65% of them work in the construction sector, their absence could have led to the monthly loss of 4.45 billion NIS.
The dependency of Palestinian workers on jobs in the Israeli market allows employers to cut costs and accumulate profit through exploitation. No protection when catching the virus on the job. 
41 Palestinian workers at the Glatt Chicken factory in the Atarot Industrial Zone, occupied East Jerusalem, were infected by the Coronavirus. None of them were tested or received healthcare before returning to their families.