Textiles, Bethlehem, Palestine
CEO, Adam Neiman, inspected the factory in July of last year, the
week after the war in Lebanon began. His findings are below...
al Arja Textiles in mid July of 2006 to inspect working conditions
and meet with the management and union leaders to determine if
the factory met our production standards. The workplace was
clean, well lit, well ventilated and safe. In the full heat of
the summer the concrete slab construction, open windows and plentiful
ceiling fans kept the temperature at a comfortable level of 70º or
major work area had a water cooler and first aid station. Bathrooms
were clean and stocked with toilet paper. That’s not a
minor detail. I’ve visited factories (including
a US union factory we chose not to source from) where management
kept the toilet paper under lock and key. It’s a pretty sure
sign that wages are inadequate when workers feel compelled to steal
the toilet paper! Exits were well placed and marked. I found one
little used exit with more debris at the bottom than advisable
and no handrail. I also thought the screen printing room could
have used an additional ventilator. I discussed these with Elias
Alarja, the Palestinian owner of al Arja, and he agreed to rectify
those conditions after we began production, which seemed reasonable.
We will be conducting a complete independent audit this Spring,
but in general I found conditions to be quite comparable with the
US union factories we source from.
Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).
most Palestinian social institutions, the PGTFU has been operating
under extreme duress for 40 years because of the ongoing occupation.
Travel is extremely difficult because of the frequent security
checkpoints. While most Palestinian workers are members, the PGTFU
has never held an election nor charged dues to date. The union
has survived on donations from the major European trade unions
(where it's leadership is held in very high regard) and,
until the election of Hamas last year, block grants from the Palestinian
authority. The union leadership is Muslim but rather secular (as
is the majority of the population on the West Bank) and is loosely
affiliated with Fatah (the party that recognizes the right of Israel
to exist within 1967 borders), much the way the US labor movement
is loosely affiliated with the Democratic Party. The relations
between the PGTFU and the Israeli Labor party are among the strongest
remaining ties between the two countries.
Normally the absence of elections would
disqualify this union from No Sweat’s standards for workplace
democracy. But the extenuating circumstances of life in the occupied
territories, (in particular, the difficulty that travel there imposes
on elections), the extreme need of the population, as well as the
potential to have a positive impact on the conflict and the union,
compelled us to consider this source. In our standards, we do reserve
that option. General Secretary Said, the leader of the PGFTU, was
kind enough to drive down through six hours of roadblocks from
Nablus to meet with me. I had offered to drive up but was grateful
that the offer was declined. Nablus is a pretty militant town and
no one felt that they could guarantee my security. I met with Sahel
Said and several local PGTFU leaders along with the factory owner.
They agreed that if No Sweat became a steady customer they would
hold elections with ILO observers and begin collective bargaining
A number of informed people (US labor leaders who
have done extensive solidarity work in the occupied territories
as well as the Israeli consul general in Boston) explained to
me before traveling to the West Bank that labor/management conflict
was all but nonexistent in the nation building phase that Palestinian
society is passing through. Social solidarity in the face of the
occupation takes precedence over class struggle. The Israeli labor
movement passed through a similar phase from which it emerged as
a robust defender of Israeli workers. Factory owners that continue
to operate under near impossible conditions and provide good jobs
with benefits exceeding what is required by law are regarded as
local heroes, as they should be. We are proud to support this factory
and proud to assist the PGTFU become a fully functioning union
by our engagement.
Below is a review of wages & benefits by Hani Mourad, who consults
for the UN on the garment and textile industry.
Adam Neiman Founder & CEO,
Manufacturers of No Sweat Apparel
Organic Cotton Certification
of Arja Wages & Benefits
Benefits provided to all factory workers:
They provide workers insurance policy, but it does not cover family
members (Individual only)
21 days of paid holidays per the year, that includes
religious holidays as well.
48 working hours per week
Lowest paid seamstress per hour = 3.60NIS* ($0.86)
paid seamstress for per hour = 6.70NIS ($1.60)
wages per hour, lowest = 7.70NIS ($1.83) & highest
= 19.00NIS ($4.5)
Knitting machine operators wages for per
hour, highest = 15.40NIS ($3.66) & lowest = 6.00NIS
The health care insurance is regarded as such since it is not
required by the current Palestinian labor law. No additional
benefits are given the workers.
International Consultant Garments and Textiles
do these wages translate in the Palestinian economy? There
is no legal minimum wage. We compared Arja wages to incomes
for Palestinian families ranked by five quadrilles...
20% monthly NIS*- 4343
2nd 20% monthly NIS- 1978
monthly NIS- 1329
4th 20% monthly NIS- 897
5th 20% monthly
is by family. Typically, Palestinian families have multiple
income earners, with sons & daughters
remaining in the house and contributing income until they
marry. But assuming Arja workers are sole income earners....
lowest paid seamstress earns 691 NIS- between 4th & 5th
The highest paid seamstress earns 1286 NIS- between 4th & 3rd,
on high end
lowest paid dyer earns 1478 NIS- between 3rd & 2nd
The highest paid dyer earns 3648 NIS- between 2nd & top,
on high end
lowest paid knitter earns1152 NIS- between 3rd & 4th
The highest paid knitter earns 2956 NIS- between 2nd & top,
on high end
workers (if they are sole income earners for family) are
thus in the lower middle quadrille to upper middle quadrille
of Palestinian families. If there are 2 wage earners, even
if the second is in the 5th quadrille, that family is solidly
in the middle range of income earners. Pay rises with seniority
and turnover is low.
the need for these jobs, given the scope of the opportunity,
and given what we know about this factory, No Sweat has a
great deal of confidence in this source. Still, a complete
independent audit of this factory is planned for this Spring.
Results should be posted on this website by the end of May.
New Israeli Shekel (4.2 = $1.00)