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PCHR Calls upon Banks Licensed by Gaza Authorities to Consider the State of Emergency and Postpone Due Deductions on Gaza Strip Public Sector Employees

Ref: 30/2020 

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) calls on the banks licensed by the Gaza Strip authorities: The National Bank (TNB), and Palestine Production Bank (PPB), to take into account the conditions of the Gaza Strip public sector employees in light of the emergency state and the procedures put in place to combat the spread of Coronavirus (COVID – 19). PCHR also calls upon theses banks to postpone due deductions from the salaries of public employees in Gaza City, similar to the banks authorized by the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA), especially that the employees in question receive only 40% of their salaries.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Board of Directors at the Public Sector Trade Union in the Gaza Strip declared their resignation en masse and referred this matter to the Ministry of Justice according to law. The Union said in a statement on Wednesday, 01 April 2020, that the Board resigned because the bank refused to postpone due deductions from employees’ salaries in these exceptional circumstances in which they live and did not respond to the union’s appeals about the suffering of employees and their families.

Mr. Yaqoub al-Ghandour, Chairman of the resigned Public Trade Union in the Gaza Strip, said to PCHR’s fieldworker that the Union’s Board of Directors held 2 separate meetings with the Administrations of the TNB and the PPB, demanding them to postpone due deductions, including those for the bank, electric, water and others, but to no avail; therefore, the BoD resigned. Al-Ghandour confirmed that about 15,000 employees have loans from the bank and owe Murabha (interest) to these banks which amounts to 30 – 35% of their salary, of which they only receive 40%. Al-Ghandour confirmed that the banks applied collected due deductibles from employees’ salaries, without any consideration for their claims.

The Ministry of Finance and Planning – Gaza announced that March 2020 salaries will be paid on Thursday, 02 April 2020 at a 40% rate under the new disbursement mechanism put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus.

It should be noted that the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA), which supervises the work of banks in the oPt to postpone the monthly deductions on all loans for the next 4 months, subject to extension; and banned any collection of interest, operational costs or commissions on delayed payments.

In light of the above, PCHR reiterates its call upon “The National Bank” and “Production Bank” to consider the financial situation of Gaza-government employees under these exception circumstances and to cease all bank deductions on employees’ salaries, in line with all other PMA banks. Also, PCHR calls upon the relevant service providers to notify said banks of postponement of due deductions from the public in exchange of basic services, such as water, electric, communication, etc. until the end of the current crisis and the state of emergency in the Gaza Strip.