Gaza pay cuts deepen rift between PA and Hamas

Negative social and economic repercussions feared in Gaza after PA imposes workers’ salaries cuts.

The new pay cuts, targeting employees of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, will increase the hardships for many in the strip

Gaza – Maysoon Abu Jumaa, 38, was extremely shocked when she received her paycheck for March. The Gaza-based science teacher regularly makes about $700 dollars in monthly wages. Last month, she received $70.

Abu Jumaa is one of tens of thousands of employees for the Palestinian Authority (PA) living in the besieged Gaza Strip , adversely affected by a decision that drastically reduced their salaries.

“I am a mother of six orphans, and now I fear that my little children will be without food,” Abu Jumaa told Al Jazeera as her voice trembled.

The decision came into effect last week, when the public sector workers for the PA received their March salaries with between 30-70 percent in deductions, leading to the eruption of large rallies in the impoverished coastal enclave.

The PA, a semi-governmental body that administers the Israeli-occupied West Bank , has been at loggerheads with the Hamas movement that governs the Gaza Strip since the latter seized control of the strip in 2007 following its victory in elections.

After Hamas, the Gaza-based resistance movement, seized power, the PA instructed its employees in Gaza not to attend work under Hamas rule. Those who decided not to attend work, were still kept on the PA payroll. But many others continued with their jobs, after a religious decree in Gaza stipulated it was wrong to accept money if it is not being earned.

Abu Jumaa, who teaches at a secondary public school in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, has been placed in a serious financial peril as a result of the cuts. She is completely helpless, faced with increasing familial responsibilities. “This is unjust, how am I going to pay for tuitions and other necessities, like the medicine for my little son who suffers from epilepsy?” she continued.

Some 70,000 PA civil servants already struggle from meagre and irregular wages, in the midst of costly living standards. Now, they are at risk of poverty.

The Gaza Strip has suffered abominable economic conditions since the area was placed under a blockade by Israel more than 10 years ago. About 40 percent of the two million population live below the poverty line, while at least 80 percent of the population would starve without food from international aid agencies.

In 2015, the United Nations warned that Gaza could become “uninhabitable” by 2020 if the same economic trends persist.

Sanaa Ghaith, another teacher in Rafah, who supports 11 family members, received just $50 in salary last month. “Our sense of stability is dwindling in this city, people have become worn out,” Ghaith told Al Jazeera.

“As a mother, how I would have the words to tell my three daughters that I cannot pay for their universities and colleges?” Ghaith told Al Jazeera.

The crisis in salaries is very likely to aggravate the situation and increase suffering in the poverty-stricken Strip.

A spokesperson for the PA said the crippling financial blockade imposed on the Palestinian state and internal divisions are responsible for the salary cuts in the Gaza Strip.

“The international support offered to the Palestinian Authority has severely decreased in recent years, eventually leading to a deepening financial crisis. The most prominent side of it is the non-payment salaries and cuts in bonuses and allowances to our workers in the Gaza Strip,” Yousef al-Mahmoud said in a statement.

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