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Contract Workers: We Don't Want to Be Slaves

Why a general strike? The heads of the Histadrut national labor union explain: We don't want to be slaves.
By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 11/7/2011, 9:01 AM

The threat of a general strike protesting contract worker's employment conditions looms over Israel as of Monday morning. The heads of the Histadrut national labor union explained to Arutz Sheva on Sunday some of the reasons behind the strike.

The National Labor Court ordered the strike to end at 10:00 a.m. Sunday but if no resolution is found, Israel's banks, schools, transportation – including Ben Gurion airport – and government offices will be shut down again. 

“We don’t want promises or conditions,” Ariel Yaakobi, chairman of the state employee’s union, said. “We don’t want to be slaves. We want to be free employees with a collective agreement.”

Rochale Avrahami, a contract worker and head of the hostel division employees at the Lev Hasharon Hospital, explained about some of the impossible working conditions of the hostel’s contract employees.

“My social rights are at a minimum,” she said. “My salary components are simply ridiculous. My net income is 4,500 shekels and when I say net, that’s what is deposited into my bank account. I’m not talking about gross income because no employee goes to the grocery store with that.”

“They tried to make us do the patients’ personal laundry,” she added. “We prevented it. I was fired over that and was re-hired following intervention by the Histadrut. I believe that if we hadn’t organized into a union, they could’ve done additional things to us, given us more tasks like preparing dinner for the patients. Tomorrow they can fire the gardener and say, ‘No big deal. Just take the hose and water the plants.’ Every once in a while we see them making an effort to give us more work.”

Avrahami called on the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister to take action and improve employees’ rights.

“I expect the Prime Minister and Finance Minister to take responsibility and give the employees what they deserve because the employees deserve fair wage and a permanent status of employees who are not threatened with dismissal 365 days a year,” she said. “An employee can’t give his maximum in such conditions. I ask you, honorable Prime Minister and Finance Minister: we need to give these employees the power to go on.”

“We want to turn contract workers into ordinary workers,” Yaakobi said. “It’s about time that the Israeli employer knows who his employees are, when they’re sick, when he pays them for sick time, when they’re in mourning.  These are our demands. There’s no difference between employees.”