The Palestinian Authority cut salaries for its staff in Gaza by 20 per cent yesterday and failed to make up for skipping the previous month’s pay, leaving civil servants in the impoverished territory fuming.
Some 38,000 civil servants in the Gaza Strip learned of the new disruptions to their incomes upon arriving at their banks on payday, intent on withdrawing cash ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on 15 May.
Last month, they were not paid at all. Many were hoping for two months’ pay this month, but instead received a reduced rate of a single month’s pay, with no explanation.
PA salaries in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were paid in full.
Many Gazans believe they are being used as pawns in a power-struggle between Fatah and Hamas.
“If they’ve failed to resolve this issue through dialogue, it can’t be resolved by [using] the poor employee,” said Eyad Kalloub, a 40-year-old civil servant, as he queued at his bank.
The Gaza wage cuts were the second round in as many years imposed by the Palestinian Authority, which still administers the payroll for civil servants in the territory run by Hamas.
PA officials said at time that those moves were meant to pressure Hamas to relinquish Gaza control. However, last month they blamed the latest hold-up in wages on technical problems.
More than half of Gazans depend on international aid, and 43.6 percent of workers are unemployed, the highest rate in the world. Basic utilities such as water purification and power have deteriorated.
Jamal Abu Gholy, 38, a civil servant, came to his Gaza bank hoping to draw on his April salary, only to learn that it had not been deposited. Instead, he owed the bank for an overdraft.
“What shall I do about Ramadan?” he asked. “I can’t just put out cheese and jam. We tell President Abbas: please show mercy towards us.”