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UNRWA workers' union suspends strikes for 10 days

Nov. 27, 2016 8:20 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 28, 2016 10:15 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The union of local employees for UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, declared on Sunday that it would suspend its strike against the agency’s administration for 10 days.

Suheil al-Hindi, the head of the union, told Ma’an that at meeting with UNRWA’s general commissioner on Friday, it was agreed to freeze the strike and form a committee to find solutions to the union’s demands.

He said that the UNRWA administration had responded positively to the union’s demand to fill a number of job vacancies and had hired 200 new teachers, with 200 others to be hired in January.

Al-Hindi reiterated that the union was also calling for an end to UNRWA service cuts across the Middle East, and an increase in salaries for local staff.

Al-Hindi added that the union would escalate its strikes and protests if an agreement was not reached in the coming 10 days.

UNRWA’s employee union has staged recurrent strikes over the past year to denounce service cuts, staff shortages, and low salaries.

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.

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, once 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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