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Hundreds of UNRWA employees protest in Gaza amid one-day strike

Nov. 14, 2016 10:33 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 15, 2016 12:08 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Hundreds of UNRWA employees protested Monday in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City on Monday over unmet demands regarding wages and unfilled job vacancies, amid a one-day strike launched by the union of employees for the UN agency responsible for providing services for Palestinian refugees.

Head of the union Suheil al-Hindi announced in a press conference that a series of strikes would also be held in the coming days not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, after the UN administration “failed to address their demands.”

Al-Hindi said that three months of negotiations with the UN administration had not produced any results.

UNRWA media advisor Adnan Abu Hasna reacted to the strikes saying that negotiations were the only way to solve the agency’s problems, noting that everyone involved in the conflict was invited to sit down for negotiations, which he said had succeeded in resolving strikes in the past.

“Millions of refugees are going to be affected by these strikes,” Abu Hasna said, adding that any further delay in providing services to refugees would not be tolerated.

He stressed that an agreement must be reached between the UNRWA administration and its employees that would impede refugee services.

Al-Hindi has previously accused the UNRWA administration in the past of not filling in hundreds of vacant positions, claiming the UN agency "deliberately puts off hiring employees in order to win some time and save money at the expense of refugees."

The union, according to al-Hindi, has also demanded that UNRWA increase salaries to reflect the high cost of living and to stop reducing services the organization offers to Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA's director of operations in the Gaza Strip, Bo Schack denied on Oct. 17 that UNRWA had reduced any services to Palestinian refugees despite the severe funding shortage.

"UNRWA is exerting huge efforts in Gaza and there have been no reductions in services at all," Schack said during a news conference at UNRWA's headquarters in Gaza City, when he claimed that the total number of UNRWA employees had in fact increased.

While UNRWA has denied allegations in the past that the changes to refugee services were an attempt to develop more cost-effective procedures in order to alleviate a financial crisis in the agency, Palestinians have accused the agency of sacrificing the well-being of Palestinian refugees in order to make up for their financial strains.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on UN member states in May to assist the organization in compensating for a $81 million deficit, adding that the agency was, again, in “dire need of resources.” The plea came one year after the organization faced the largest financial setback in its history, with a recorded deficit of $100 million.
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