The PGFTU was founded in 1965 under Jordanian control of the West Bank, as the successor to the Arab Labours Society that had been set up in 1921 in Haifa.
Following Israel’s conquest of the West Bank from Jordan, the PGFTU began operating as an independent entity for Palestinian workers, often meeting in secrecy due to the pre-Oslo restrictions on groups linked to the PLO.
The PGFTU has traditionally had a close relationship to the Fatah party, the leading group within the PLO. However in 1993 the trade union wings of several other PLO factions including the Democratic Front, Popular Front and People’s Party (formerly the CP) joined the PGFTU. Resolutions passed at the PGFTU’s Second Constitutional Conference in May 2004 enabled democratic elections for positions rather than by nomination from the different PLO factions.
The PGFTU consists of 13 national unions, each with regional and local organizations, in sectors such as Hotels/Tourism, Hospital, Textile/Clothing and Construction. It is estimated to have a membership of approximately 270,000, nearly 75% of Palestinian workers. In addition to a 30-member National Executive Committee (17 members from the West Bank, 13 from Gaza) there are also central departments, including Organization, Education, Legal, Women’s and Media/International. It has a headquarters in the West Bank city of Nablus with a second major office in Gaza.
The PGFTU has played an important role in promoting women’s rights in the Palestinian territories. Its women’s department was created in 1995 and in 2004 the PGFTU conference passed a resolution that created a quota of at least 20% female representation in all bodies in the local and national unions and in its executive committees.
The PGFTU is the internationally recognized trade union centre for Palestine and has been a full member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) since 2001. It maintains regular contact with the Histadrut, with several agreements regarding the remittance of union dues to the PGFTU from Palestinian workers working in Israel and legal representation made during the in Oslo- era. The since the start of the Second Intifada face to face dialogue has severely restricted with the suspension of some of the bi-lateral agreements, however dialogue remains on going. In the difficult economic and political situation in Palestine the PGFTU plays a vital role standing up for the rights of Palestinian workers.