Ramallah: Palestinian women from the West Bank are being forced into servitude as maids in Israeli colonist homes despite being originally recruited to work on farms in the fields of the colonial area by Palestinian job agencies, according to Palestinian officials.

The women’s financial needs make them easy prey for these employers and Palestinian agents, they say.

“Those women were originally recruited to work in agriculture, but they are forced to work as maids and in the event, they refuse to do that, they are fired and never granted any further colony work permits,” said Shaher Sa’ad, secretary general of the Palestine General Federation of Trade and Labour Unions.

This problem is made worse because some West Bank women who are recruited to work in agriculture can enter the colonies without holding entry permits from the security companies who guard the colony entrances because they pass through the colony gates in their employers’ vehicles.

“The Palestinian National Authority or PNA does not have any supervision due to this direct colonist employer-employee relationship,” Sa’ad told Gulf News. “Palestinian women are therefore victimised by the colonist employers and their Palestinian agents mainly in their salaries and the nature and hours of their work.”

While the payment of a Palestinian female worker is supposed to be $53 per day, this payment is made by the colonist employer to his agent--not directly to the women workers. Thus, the broker only pays the female worker $21 and keeps the rest. “This is pure slavery as West Bank women workers are not supposed to and have never agreed to work as household maids,” said Sa’ad. “The PNA, the Palestinian government and syndicates should monitor and supervise the deteriorating conditions of the women workers in the West Bank colonies.”

The PNA and all its bodies view the Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territories as illegal so they refuse to intervene regardless of the mistreatment taking place there against female workers. “This attitude leaves the women workers easy prey for the Israeli colonist employers and their agents who take advantage of the women’s needs the most,” he said. “Furthermore, the Israeli lawyers who usually handle women’s labour issues and disputes take advantage of the women by overcharging for their services.”

The Palestine General Federation of Trade and Labour Unions receives daily complaints from women workers in West Bank colonies where the federation advises the plaintiffs to hire one of 11 recommended Palestinian lawyers from inside the Green Line, he said, adding that those lawyers will take a certain percentage of what the workers receive.

According to Sa’ad a total of 2,800 to 3,500 Palestinian women currently work inside Israeli colonies, mainly in agriculture, with the number of female workers rising to as many as 7,000 during the harvest seasons.