A call for messages of protest to the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Ministry of Labor

The Israeli Workers Advice Center  is calling for support for workers dismissed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority

WAC-MAAN calls on archaeologists and public-sector trade unions to support the struggle of 21 workers from East Jerusalem, who demand to be employed directly, with full social benefits, by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA). These workers, men aged 45-55 with years of experience, have been employed until now through a personnel company called Brik.

An Amendment to the Law on Personnel Companies (2008) stipulates that manpower workers be transferred to direct employment by the firm they are actually working for (the IAA in this case) after nine months. The 21 became eligible for direct employment in October 2008. The law was not applied. Instead they were fired, along with dozens of colleagues, all of those who had worked nine months or more, in January 2009. The dismissal was verbal, without a letter or severance pay. At the same time Brik sought 70 new workers from the Employment Service.

WAC-MAAN (the Workers’ Advice Center) an independent trade-union association of Arab and Jewish workers in Israel, calls upon archaeologists and others to express solidarity with the 21. The IAA and Brik have violated the stipulations of the 2008 Amendment. The workers should have been transferred to direct employment by the IAA.

United under WAC’s auspices, the workers applied to the Jerusalem Labor Court for repeal of their dismissal, claiming that, according to the Amendment, they should be employed directly by the IAA. Brik and the IAA opposed this claim. Brik also asserted that the workers had never been fired (they could not produce letters, of course). To prove its point, Brik re-hired some for a few days, but the 21 who dared speak out have had hardly any work in the last three months. These vindictive measures have brought many of their families to the verge of hunger.

The case is of major importance. About 650 workers, Arabs and Jews, are employed by the IAA through Brik. The result of this appeal will be applied to them. Second, in the Israeli labor market some 300,000 workers, more than 10% of the labor force, are employed through personnel companies, enabling firms to sidestep collective agreements. Success in this case will be a precedent liberating them from bondage to these companies and helping them secure their rights.

WAC’s plan of Action

WAC’s East Jerusalem Branch is leading the struggle of the workers on different levels:

1. It organized all 21 in WAC-MAAN, providing them with legal advice and help in procedures with the authorities.
2. Its lawyers, Bassam Karkaby and Eran Golan, presented a petition to the Jerusalem Labour Court on behalf of the workers.
3. A protest demonstration was organized on February 3 at IAA headquarters in East Jerusalem; reports on it were published widely in the local media.
4. A nation wide campaign has been initiated to collect donations and food supplies for the workers.
5. A solidarity concert will take place in Tel Aviv on April 24. All the revenues will go to cover the expenses of the legal battle and to support the workers while awaiting the court decision.

Sample testimonies from the workers

•A. was dismissed after six years at Brik. He had worked at archaeological digs in Ramle, Lod and Ras al-Amud. His salary was paid throughout this period by Brik. He says he never received holiday pay or sick pay, nor convalescence allowances, let alone pension payments. On Jan. 8, 2009, when the work day ended, a Brik representative told more than 50 workers at Ras al-Amud that according to his company’s policy, all those employed for more than 9 months would cease to be enrolled for work. On going to the Employment Bureau the next day, A. saw the officials of Brik interviewing candidates for the job.

•B. has been employed through Brik for about two years. His average monthly wage was about NIS 2,000, because he was only hired for 12 to 16 days each month. He received no holiday pay, sick pay, convalescence allowance or pension. He received no travel allowance either.

Express your solidarity. Protest with the workers!

Send the following message to the addresses below (or alternatively write your own). Please do not forget to send WAC (maan@maan.org.il )a copy.

We the undersigned have learned about the case of 21 workers from East Jerusalem who are demanding to be enrolled as proper workers in the IAA. The 21 were employed for years by the Brik personnel company while digging with the IAA. According to the 2008 amendment to Law of Personnel Companies (12A), they should have been recognized as workers of the IAA with full social rights. Instead they are being victimized because they dared to demand their rights. Please make sure that this injustice stops and that the rights of these workers are respected.

Write to:

1.Director of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, Mr. Shuka Dorfman
Through his spokesperson Ms. Yoli Shwartz
Fax 972-2-6287492

2.Minister of Trade,Industry and Labor, Mr. Benyamin Ben Eliezer
fax +972-2-6662909

3.Labor Relations Division – Ministry of Labor.
Mr. ShlomoYitzhaki – Director
Tel +972-2-6662793 Fax +972-2-6662971

4.Labor Relations Department – head of Bureau, Ms. Verd Ovadia

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