Health Work Committees condemn UNRWA position
Published Tuesday 07/01/2014 (updated) 08/01/2014 12:00
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Health Work Committees on Tuesday condemned the position of UNRWA amid protests and hunger strikes against the UN agency's hiring practices in recent days.
The Health Work committees said in a statement that UNRWA's lack of response to the initiatives of the government, the refugees' affairs department, and the popular committees to find a resolution to the crisis, reflect "the dangerous intentions and political nature of the association," which will lead to more reductions in education, health and social services.
The committees said they hold the UNRWA responsible for any harm that might befall employees in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as for the health hazards that camps face after workers went on strike and services were halted in a response to lay-offs.
The committees called on Palestinians and local community institutions to support the demands of UNRWA employees and to join them in the protest tents to make their voices heard.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma'an that "UNRWA's recent salary survey has shown that UNRWA workers are paid more than twenty percent on average higher than the equivalent jobs in the Palestinian Authority. In some cases our workers are paid eighty per cent higher."
"On the question of personnel with limited duration contracts under the emergency Job Creation Project, management brought to a meeting yesterday with the unions and Palestinian legislators new ideas on how to find solutions for these individuals, in spite of the shortage of funds under this project. We reiterated that this issue can be further explored to the satisfaction of all," he added.
The statements come after two days of protests and nearly a week of hunger strikes by 27 former employees in protest against hiring policies.
The hunger strikes -- carried out by various residents of Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Nablus -- were in protest of UNRWA's layoff of 55 employees in late 2013.
A strike was also observed by local employees in Gaza.
UNRWA is the UN agency originally set up in 1949 to ensure relief and development for the Palestinian refugees expelled from what became the State of Israel in 1948.
Today, the agency provides health care, education, social services, and other forms of aid to nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees.