WAC calls for reinstatement of sacked East Jerusalem workers

From the Israeli Workers Advice Centre

21 Palestinian workers of the Antiquities Authority from East Jerusalem, were laid off by the personnel contractor Brik. The workers appealed to the Labor Court demanding that they be returned to work directly with the Authority.

On January 25, a request for an injunction was submitted to the Jerusalem Labor Court to upturn the dismissal notices of 21 people working at the Antiquities Authority, employed by the personnel contractor Brik. The dismissals are illegal according to the Amendment to the Employment of Workers by Personnel Contractors Law. The Labor Court’s ruling in this case will have far-reaching implications on the obligation of public-sector employers to apply the amendment and employ workers under fair conditions.

On Sunday 25 January, WAC’s legal advisor Att. Basam Karkabi, submitted an urgent appeal for an injunction to the Jerusalem District Labor Court. The appeal, submitted in the name of 21 Palestinian workers from East Jerusalem, against the Antiquities Authority and the personnel contractor Brik, requests a temporary injunction to prevent the dismissal notices from coming into effect, and that the workers be reinstate immediately.

This unprecedented appeal is based on paragraph 12a of the Employment of Workers by Personnel Contractors Law, which came into effect at the beginning of 2008. It must be noted that the application of this amendment was postponed a number of years by means of the Economic Arrangements Law. According to the latest amendment, any worker employed by a personnel contractor for a period of nine months, becomes a regular employee of the workplace in which he or she is working. This means that the workers dismissed recently by Brik, were in fact employees of the Antiquities Authority and therefore the dismissal is illegal. The Antiquities Authority has employed these workers and hundreds of others at excavation sites in the Jerusalem area and around the country. The excavation work continues, hence there is no justification for dismissing the workers except for the attempt to avoid employing them directly, thereby granting them their full rights.

These workers have been working via Brik for the Antiquities Authority for a number of years, in various jobs. During this time they were not granted with the basic rights that every employer is obliged to provide. Brik is adding insult to injury by the dismissal, which leaves them without a source of livelihood. Notice of the dismissal was given verbally and collectively. On 8 January 2009, Brik’s manager called the workers to a meeting at the excavation site, in Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amoud neighborhood, and informed them that from that moment on, anyone with a seniority of nine months or more, will be laid off. None of the workers received a written dismissal notice and no hearings were held to investigate each worker’s personal circumstances.

WAC initiated and coordinated the organization of these workers in order to submit an appeal and apply the law, which until now has been a dead letter. This issue not only affects these East Jerusalem Palestinian workers, but also hundreds of thousands of workers in Israel employed by manpower agencies and personnel contractors, which deny them from workers’ rights. With the financial crisis and the risk of unemployment, workers must organize and actively defend their rights. Legislation is not enough – we must create the means to ensure that workers receive what they are entitled to by law.

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