By Nir Nader
Regional Labor Court: Manpower Workers in Archaeology must be Employed Directly by IAA after 9 Months
Jerusalem’s Regional Labor Court, in a precedent-making decision, has ruled that workers employed many years by the Bric Personnel Company in projects of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) are entitled, after nine months, to be employed directly by the IAA, even if the projects in which they work have a contingent, temporary character. The court accepted the claims of members of the Workers Advice Center (WAC-MAAN), who had joined with WAC in suing Bric and the IAA. They were represented by Attorneys Bassam Karkabi and Eran Golan.
The lawsuit was started a year ago, in March 2009, by 21 Palestinian workers, residents of East Jerusalem organized by WAC. Two months earlier they had received an oral notification from Bric that all who had worked nine months or more would be discontinued. In this way, the IAA attempted to sidestep Amendment 12A to the Personnel Companies Act, which specifies that everyone employed for nine consecutive months at a place of work by a personnel company must automatically become an employee of the firm requesting the work, in this case the IAA.
The suit of the 21 has implications for labor relations in the economy as a whole. It concerns the border where personnel company workers turn into staff under the direct employ of the firm whose work they do. The court decided that Amendment 12A affects not only the 21, but all who work in contingent, temporary jobs. That amounts to hundreds of thousands of workers.
The court also cancelled the dismissals of those among the 21 who had worked more than nine months, thus becoming, in effect, workers for the IAA.
The court rejected all the arguments presented by Bric and the IAA in which they claimed that the amendment does not apply in the case of these workers. It also rejected Bric’s claim that it is “only” a service contractor and that, consequently, the amendment concerning personnel companies has no application. The court determined that the intent of the Law on Employment of Workers by Personnel Companies, including the intent of Article 12A, is to protect the rights of people working under contractors, to ensure fair conditions, and to prevent inequality among various groups of workers, as follows (unofficial translation):
“The fact is that the legislator did not stop at full equalization between the job conditions of those working for the actual employer and those working under a contractor, but rather instructed, in an unqualified manner, that after nine months those working under a contractor shall become workers for the actual employer. This fact shows that the legislator did not rest with preventing the creation of different statuses and sought to achieve a more far-reaching goal: to totally prevent the employment of people as personnel-company workers for a period of more than nine months, also in cases where no discrimination is created between personnel-company workers and those working for actual employer—[that is, also in cases where no discrimination is created] because the work in question has a contingent/temporary character and all the workers of the same kind are employed through a personnel-company contractor. That is to say: The legislator sought to achieve a result of limiting the period in which one could employ contractor-workers at the place of the actual employer without distinction. According to this position, a division between ‘the job’ and ‘the employer,’ from the worker’s point of view, involves harm to the worker.”
WAC calls on the IAA to act in a manner befitting its station as a public body: to end the methods of debilitating employment, to accept at once, as IAA workers, all those whom Bric had illegally dismissed; to recognize all archaeological workers employed through Bric for more than nine months as IAA workers; and to ensure that all archaeology workers receive the benefits that are theirs by law.