Solidarity Magazine » Israel/Palestine Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A signing of a collective agreement between WAC (Israel) and Musrara Art School Sun, 10 Oct 2010 17:12:37 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A collective agreement between the Israeli Workers Advice Centre (WAC) and Musrara Art School was signed on August 25

A collective agreement between WAC and Musrara Art School was signed in initials on August 25. The agreement settles the working conditions of 70 workers and lecturers, and will come to force after the approval of the collective agreements registrar in the ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor. This is WAC’s first collective agreement.

The agreement determines that the lecturers will start working on a 12 months base. This change will be done in three steps and the full job framework will be defined by 18 weekly hours. The salary’s rating will be determined by seniority, professional training and experience, starting from 120 to 180 NIS per hour.

Among the social benefits that will be added to the lecturers’ wage: transportation refund, convalescence pay, holidays pay and pension allocation in the rate of 18.33% of the lecturer’s pay. This is additionally to other rights assigned by law.

The elected workers committee will help to settle the working relations and the collective agreement and recruit the lecturers and all of the workers to work for the school’s success. The schools’ management will allocate up to 500 NIS per month to cover the workers’ committee expenses.

Gaston Ztvi Itskovitch, the chairman of the committee told The Union:

“The agreement is very important, not only for the school’s present but also for its future. The main thing is that the lecturers are finally coming to work in a place where they are being respected. This change of atmosphere will encourage accomplishments. The agreement will attract more lecturers, after they hear about the fair employment conditions, the 12 paychecks and the social rights. WAC did a precise work, and in fact the agreement would not have been signed if not for WAC. Other organizing attempts have failed in the past, but WAC succeeded to manage the negotiations without exploding them. Avi Sabag, the school’s manager, understood that a collective agreement is the right thing to do, and so he also deserves credit. The workers’ committee did a good job, combining both senior and young lecturers”.

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The Lesson of the Flotilla Bloodbath: End the Occupation Sun, 06 Jun 2010 12:31:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Position paper of WAC-MAAN about the deaths on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza

WAC-MAAN, which organizes within its ranks both Jewish and Arab workers, strongly condemns the Israeli raid on the Freedom for Gaza flotilla, which has resulted in nine dead and dozens of wounded.

Israel’s attempt to divert the argument away from its blockade on Gaza, and over to the resistance that its troops encountered while attacking the flotilla, is futile and grotesque. As if soldiers sent to prevent civilians from breaking an unjust siege can be compared with 1.5 million Palestinians caught in a three-year humanitarian catastrophe!

WAC holds that Israel’s stubbornness, and its refusal to pay the price of peace—namely, an end to the occupation and recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to a sovereign state—is the main reason for the continuing bloodshed. In its suffering, the Palestinian people’s cause has become the banner of the international community.

The international community agrees on the need to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by an Israeli withdrawal and the implementation of UN resolutions. Nevertheless, the powers that pull the strings in the region continue to put their narrow interests first. The American administration under Barack Obama at first proposed to bring about a dramatic change in American policy, but in effect it continues to support an axis of corrupt, dictatorial regimes. In the Palestinian arena, it deepens the schism between Fatah and Hamas by strengthening the regime of Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad.

As for Hamas, which rules Gaza, it shows no concern for the real situation of the Palestinian people. Relying on support from Iran, it opts for total struggle against Israel and the pro-American regimes. In the view of the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis, the campaign to remove the siege of Gaza translates into proof of the rightness of their cause.

Israel has exploited the situation, postponing a solution to the conflict with the excuse that there is no partner for peace. The right-wing Netanyahu government refuses to make progress in negotiations, opposing any arrangement based on withdrawal to the 1967 borders and recognition of Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem. Seventeen years after signing the Oslo Accords, Israeli governments continue to act as if the bloody struggle could go on forever. They grind the PA into the dust, thus strengthening the radical axis.

Today it is clear that Israel’s aggressive policy has hurt the status of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. A change in Israeli policy has become a strategic American interest. However, Obama has avoided taking any practical step toward showing Israel that the rules have changed. There is a good chance that now, in the light of the flotilla attack, he will exploit Israel’s new isolation to press Netanyahu into changing the composition of his government. Washington wants to see him at the head of a new coalition based on the Likud, Kadima and Labor.

Yet the hope that such a step will bear fruit, enabling meaningful negotiations, is based on wishful thinking. In the past 17 years Israel has known many governments—of Labor, Likud and also Kadima. All failed the reality test. All avoided confronting the settlers. All entered negotiations with the PA as a mere delaying tactic to soften criticism from the West.

WAC calls for broad-based international action that will force Israel to agree to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, within the June 1967 borders. If the efforts of the current crisis focus on a compromise with Israel for investigating the flotilla attack, without bearing down on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the region will continue to deteriorate. Israel’s present dispute with Turkey, following the flotilla debacle, shows how slippery is the slope down which we slide.

The Middle East is divided today between fundamentalist regimes and dictatorial, pro-American regimes. Between these stones its peoples are ground. Utterly missing, in the public discourse, are the oppression and poverty from which the workers suffer—whether in Egypt, where they demonstrate for a raise in the minimum wage, holding loaves of bread aloft before the parliament of Hosni Mubarak; or in Iran, where they struggle against privatization and joblessness under Ahmadinejad. In Turkey also the workers have gone to the streets in recent months, against privatization and unemployment. The workers of the Middle East do not have a party to represent them. Their voice is not heard.

Israel too can hardly be said to seek the good of its citizens. It has no scruples about implementing a policy of privatization, cuts in social services and destruction of the social safety net, all for the benefit of a coterie of tycoons, the real string-pullers. In recent years the number of people who are both employed and poor has grown. Among households with one breadwinner, 36% were beneath the poverty line in 2008/9.

Jews and Arabs alike suffer here, as do people in the rest of the world, from a gloves-off capitalist regime, which discriminates against workers and tramples their rights. The occupation merely sharpens the suffering of both peoples. Solidarity between Jewish and Arab workers is the only way to overcome the cycle of bloodshed. The supreme interest of the workers on both sides of the conflict is to build a political and social alternative, egalitarian and humane, against a right-wing Zionist chauvinism and an Islamic fundamentalism that are leading both peoples into catastrophe.

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The Salit Quarry workers strike in the occupied West Bank Fri, 14 May 2010 14:55:11 +0000 Continue reading ]]> by Roni Ben Efrat

For the background of a three year struggle see:

The entire workforce of the Salit Quarry, organized by WAC-MAAN, gave the management 15 days of we strike is that management unilaterally ended negotiations for a collective agreement.

Yesterday, May 10, WAC’s General Director, Assaf Adiv, received frantic calls from management requesting cancellation of the strike and promising to hold discussions beginning May 17.

WAC answered that this offer is not a sufficient reason to cancel the strike. Management had the 15 days prescribed by law to come up with a solution to prevent it. WAC proposed instead that management sit down immediately for meaningful talks. Only in the event of fruitful negotiations would the strike be halted. WAC also wrote Eyal Caleb, the manager, that while negotiations are underway it will not withdraw the declaration of a work dispute. This withdrawal will take place only after the signing of a collective agreement to WAC’s satisfaction.

Today a general meeting of the entire workforce unanimously adopted the proposal to continue the strike until a meaningful offer was put on the table or until the beginning of marathon negotiations toward the signing of an agreement.

Call for support:

The dispute at Salit has entailed enormous legal expenses for WAC. We ask unions and labor centers to donate whatever they can to help us cover them. You may send donations to our bank account with a note WAC-SALIT. We also ask you to send a note naming your organization (Trade Union branch) and the amount of your donation to: Roni Ben Efrat (International Coordinator) at

Name of bank: Bank Leumi
Branch: 801
Name of Account holder: Workers Advice Center – Ma’an
Account: 101-537704
Address: Jerusalem boulevard # 1, Jaffa
IBAN: IL030108010000001537704

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"In Unity We Shall Replace Economic Terror with Fair Employment " Mon, 29 Mar 2010 16:58:23 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Hundreds of women march in Tel Aviv, Marking Women International Day 2010

By Michal Schwartz

A colorful march took place in Tel-Aviv on March 8, International Women’s Day. Hundreds of Jewish and Arab working women arrived from all over the country, calling for fair employment. For the first time, 15 women and workers organizations join hands to found a coalition for fair employment and fight against government policy which produces poverty and unemployment among women. After the march, an assembly took place in the public park Gan Me’ir, moderated by Asma Agbarieh Zahalka from WAC-MAAN, and Ester Eilam, Chairwoman of “Ahoti – for women in Israel”.

Agbarieh called the government to change its priorities and “to put the working people and women first. We will continue the struggle to destroy the class walls that condemn peoples to poverty and wars, and further enrich the already rich classes of the world. In their quest for money, they ignore religion, nationality and race. And so, it is time that we take our future back in to our hands, and organize in order to collapse the walls of money”.

Eilam said that economy and politics are inseparable. “A general public policy regarding women’s employment must be found, supplying solutions for women, such as elderly and handicapped women, who are banished out of the world of work. Women must become visible in the public world”.

Michal Schwartz, the coordinator of WAC-MAAN’s women forum, talked about the situation of Arab, Ethiopian and Mizrahi Women, who are being pushed to the side and remain hidden from the eye. When we ignore their exploitation we then allow attacks on working women as a whole. She called women to organize and unionize in trade unions with other workers, and be a part of the leadership of a new workers movement that will put an end to exploitation.

Shula Keshet, the CEO of Ahoti, spoke against globalization, which creates poverty and increases social gaps in Israel. Shira Ohayon, the director of the Israeli Andalusian Orchestra and a pioneer of Mizrahi education in Israel, spoke about the successful struggle of the orchestra against budget cuts, and called to stop the “economic terror” being practiced against women. Aliza Yadai, one of the leaders of the union of the Day Care workers and a member of “Koah La’ovdim” (Power to the Workers), spoke about the poor working conditions of thousands of carers whose social rights are being ignored by the Ministry of Labour.

Mona Alhabanein, the chairwoman of the NGO “Nesihat Hamidbar” (Princess of the Desert), spoke about the difficult situation of the of the Beduin Woman. “We are in the most difficult situation of all Israeli women. In addition to being discriminated as a woman, Beduin women suffer from the policy of land expropriation and house demolitions. She called the women to participate in a demonstration against house demolishing, that will take place next week”.

Wafa Tiara, farm worker in the past and currently an activist in WAC-MAAN, spoke on behalf of the Arab farm workers. The Arab farm workers are not able to find work because of the policy of importing cheap and rightless Thai workers. Those who do manage to work are being used shamefully by the contractors, and that pushes the arab population below the poverty line. She called all of the victims of offensive employment, Jewish and Arab women, to join hands against exploitative employers.

Ester Herzog, the coordinator of “women’s parliament” and the head of the Anthropology program in Beit Berl College, spoke about the working conditions of teachers in Israel, 85% of whom are women. The government cuts education budgets, and demands the teachers to work extra hours for free, as part of the”Ofek Hadash” Program. She called on women to find their political voice.”As long as we women will not fight for our political representation, we will not achieve social change”.

Shebi Korzan, the CEO of the Hotline for Migrant Workers, talked about the feminization of migration. Women from the third world are being forced to leave their young children and elderly parents behind, and travel to take care of other women’s children and parents. She talked about the paradox in which they find themselves: in trying to help their families they end up losing them. Pregnancy is considered a violation of their working contract, and they are being required to leave immediately if they are found to be pregnant. Korzan called for solidarity among women regardless of race or civil status.

Rabbi Idit Lev, manager of the social justice department in “Shomrei Mishpat – Rabbis for Human Rights” and the manager of a project against the Wisconsin in Hadera area, also spoke. The musical ensemble “Hadar and Yo’el – Shevet Ahim”, excited the crowd singing in Hebrew, Arabic and Bukhari.

This was the first event of the coalition for fair employment. We hope more actions will follow.

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Precedent-making decision in favour of 21 "temporary" workers and WAC-MAAN Sun, 14 Mar 2010 17:19:16 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 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.

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Women's Coalition for Fair Employment Thu, 04 Mar 2010 17:35:44 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A March of Working Women, followed by an Assembly, in Tel Aviv on International Women’s Day—March 8, 2010

Women’s Day—March 8, 2010

To mark International Women’s Day, WAC-MAAN and Ahoti have initiated a coalition of 15 organizations, including women’s groups, workers’ organizations and social movements. The coalition calls for reducing unemployment and establishing fair job conditions.

Participating groups: WAC-MAAN; Ahoti (My Sister)—for Women in Israel; Women’s Parliament; Hotline for Migrant Workers; Shin—the Israeli Movement for Equal Representation of Women; Anwar—Jewish and Arab Women’s Leaders; Sindyanna of Galilee; Koach La Ovdim – Democratic Workers’ Organization; Hila; Tmura Center—the Israeli Antidiscrimination Legal Center; Itach (With You)—Women Lawyers for Social Justice; Coalition of Women for Peace; Hakeshet Hademocratit Hamizrahit (the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow), Kol Ha’isha—the Woman’s Voice, and Nesichat HaMidbar—the Desert Princess.

Time and place: Tel Aviv, March 8. The march begins at 16:00 at the corner of Rothschild and Sheinkin, reaching Gan Meir on King George at 17:00, where we shall hold the assembly.

The coalition’s press release follows:

A neoliberal economic policy is returning Israel to days of darkness, cancelling many of the historic gains made by women’s and workers’ movements. Privatization is destroying the health, education and welfare systems. It is dismantling workers’ organizations. It is subjecting the society as a whole, and women especially, to economic and social insecurity.

Instead of presenting a program for struggle against unemployment and poverty, the government prefers to fight the workers. It encourages debilitating employment through personnel agencies. It directs the unemployed to the Wisconsin Program, which turns the destitute jobless into destitute workers. With its other hand, the government continues to spin the revolving door, deporting those foreign workers who have learned their rights while importing replacements, fresh for exploitation. The employers and agencies reap the profits, while workers lose their bargaining power, watching rights and wages shrink.

Between Arab and Jewish women the social gaps have narrowed. On the 8th of March we will stand together. We will demand our rights. We will say “No” to a policy that sanctifies profits, turning tycoons and speculators into celebrities at our expense. We will say “Yes” to work that respects us as women and sees us as partners in building society.

We call on you, therefore, to come out en masse to the demonstration on March 8.”

Among the speakers will be Asma Agbarieh Zahalka of WAC-MAAN; Shula Keshet of Ahoti; Ester Herzog of the Women’s Parliament; Shevi Korzen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers; Rabbi Idit Lev from Keepers of the Law—Rabbis for Human Rights; Wafah Tayara, representing WAC’s farm workers; Leah Ofri, who was recently dismissed by the Israel Antiquities Authority; Aliza Yada’ya and Fathiya Masarwa from the Personal Services Union of Koach La Ovdim; and Muna al-Khabanian of Nesichat HaMidbar (Princess of the Desert).

Music: Hadar and Yoel—Shevet Ahim, Shira z. Carmel

For more information, please call our spokespersons:

Asma Agbarieh Zahalka, WAC-MAAN: 0504-330037
Shula Keshet, Ahoti: 052-234-2449

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WAC – Maan Has Established a “Truck Drivers’ Parliament” on its Way to Founding a New Union Fri, 04 Dec 2009 17:59:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> An initiative for a start a new truck drivers’ Union was launched by the WAC – Maan association on Saturday 14 November 2009 at a conference in its offices in Tel Aviv. The goal of the conference was defined as the initiation of debate and voicing of ideas for the establishment of a new drivers’ union. Around forty drivers and WAC – Maan members attended the conference. The event was organized following last month’s campaign in which tens of WAC – Maan members went around the Ashdod and Haifa ports, and other freight centers, handing out pamphlets and listening to drivers speak of their deplorable working conditions.

At the start of the conference WAC – Maan’s Director, Assaf Adiv, presented a detailed analysis and overview of the current situation in the freight industry: the conditions of exploitation and disregard for safety measures which typify the branch; the collective agreement in the industry which left a large window for the exploitation of drivers through payment by delivery assignments rather than by hours worked; a view of the legal situation in the field; and a comparison of the situation in Europe and European practices regarding hours driven and payment methods. In addition, several suggestions for possible action were debated with the drivers who attended the conference.

The debate was lively and reflected great enthusiasm and anticipation for bringing about a change in the present situation. One of the drivers defined it thus: “drivers represent a crucial vein in Israel’s economy. We supply the ports with work but there the average worker receives a salary of 15,000-20,000 shekels whereas we live off a measly 6,000 or 7000 for endless hours.”

All the drivers voiced the pain and frustration of lacking an organization or body to either speak or operate in their names. There was universal agreement in the conference that the Union of Transport Companies does not represent the interests of the drivers but rather the interests of the companies. There was agreement on the assessment that the root of the problem was the arrangement which allowed drivers to be paid on the basis of deliveries rather than remunerated for the amount of hours worked.

Several suggestions were agreed upon at the end of the discussion:

The drivers’ forum that gathered on November 14 represents the nucleus of a Drivers’ Parliament, which will meet regularly to discuss and establish a course of action to protect drivers’ rights.

WAC – Maan, through advising with the members of the drivers’ forum will initiate contact with various institutions and the media in an effort to form a public and credible body, which will serve as the base and voice for truck drivers in their dealings with the wider public and the establishment.

WAC – Maan will provide its offices, members and legal department for the drivers’ use. It will aim to spread information as extensively as possible, so that any driver who is employed in dangerous conditions, has been dismissed unlawfully, or has been injured in an accident, may receive comprehensive legal assistance.

Membership of WAC – Maan: The drivers’ forum will strive to sign on as many truck drivers as possible to a WAC – Maan registration form. Signing the registration form will serve as a kind of declaration by the driver of his support for the initiative of a drivers’ organization within WAC – Maan’s framework. Signing the registration form will not commit the driver to any payment at the moment. WAC – Maan will however encourage drivers who so wish, to become full WAC – Maan members through a monthly membership fee paid directly by the driver through his band account.

WAC – Maan and the drivers’ Parliament will look into the possibility of a regional conference either in the north or south, in order to make participation easier.

See the Workers Advice Center website at:

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Israel – Diggers Wages Wed, 02 Dec 2009 14:09:23 +0000 Continue reading ]]> By Jonathan Ben Efrat, in Yedioth Aharanot

They earn NIS 2000 per month, are dismissed every nine months, and have few rights: meet the manual laborers of the Israel Antiquities Authority, employed via the personnel agency Brick.

When you take away a man’s livelihood, why not mock him too and trample him underfoot?” The Antiquities Authority: “We don’t have the resources to employ them directly.”

The dismissal notice came as a surprise to Yafa Miara. After nine months of intensive physical labor which earned her praise from the archeologists with whom she worked, she was compelled to leave behind the archeological digs.

Despite the fatigue, the long hours in the sun, and the dust and dirt, Miara (42), a resident of Ashkelon, found great satisfaction in her work: “I knew I was a good, professional digger,” she says. “Archeologists begged to work with me. They knew they could count on me, so why did I suddenly get fired? When they told me I could continue to work via the personnel agency, I didn’t understand the significance of it. In the south, many people work via such agencies. But when they dismissed me I suddenly understood that this was their way of denying me basic social rights.”

After a cooling-off period of a few months, Miara was called again by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) management. Lacking any other alternative, she returned to work via the personnel agency Brick Enterprises and Development.

The timing of Miara’s dismissal, like that of dozens of others in archeological sites, is not accidental. The Antiquities Authority, a government body under the Ministry of Culture, works systematically to avoid implementing Paragraph 12a of the amendment to the Law on the Employment of Workers by Personnel Contractors which came into force in January 2008. According to the amendment, at the end of nine months’ employment via a personnel agency, the company employing them in practice – in this case the IAA – must take on the workers in a direct employment relationship. The amendment was supposed to limit the ongoing employment of workers via personnel agencies, where they have no pension or other social benefits.

In February 2008, one month after the amendment came into force, the question of the agency workers came up in an internal discussion of the IAA management, in which IAA Director General Shuka Dorfman also took part. But despite the change in the law, nothing changed in the Authority’s employment policy: workers continued to be dismissed after nine months’ work so that they would not have to be granted permanent employee status.

We have to make sure that the workers are dismissed after nine months so that they don’t get dismissal compensation, like the Authority workers get,” Assistant Director General Shlomo Ashkenazi said during a management meeting on the issue, thereby revealing the Authority’s policy towards temporary workers. “In the coming months we’ll have to dismiss many.” Neither did Dorfman make any attempt to hide the fact that this was the Authority’s policy. It didn’t seem to bother those present at the discussion that the declared policy seemed to go against the law. “It must be understood that we can’t hire these 550 workers,” he said. “The IAA will use temporary workers and have no responsibility for their continued employment. The personnel agency will be responsible for this.”

The licensing department for personnel agencies at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor is currently investigating the employment framework of hundreds of personnel agency workers in IAA digs throughout the country. Brick, which recruits IAA workers, is at the center of the investigation. Allegations are also being investigated that Brick illegally subtracted money from workers’ wages as union organization and committee fees, even though the workers are not affiliated with any union. There are further allegations that Brick workers were paid via another agency, Shirom Services and Maintenance Ltd., even though this agency does not actually employ them and has no license to do so.

A surprise at the employment bureau

Until the mid-90s, most Antiquities Authority workers were employed directly and received permanent worker status. In addition to the minimum wage, they also received the social benefits that all public sector employees get. They may not have got rich, but they enjoyed a high level of employment security.

Today, with the changes in the labor market, when most government bodies prefer to employ via personnel agencies, the employment terms for archeological site workers have also been downgraded. Not one receives minimal social benefits, and even a monthly minimum wage is just a dream for many.

This group of workers is made up of the marginal groups of Israeli society: new immigrants, Arabs and residents of the country’s peripheral towns. Most workers come from Kiryat Gat, Ashkelon, the towns of the “triangle” (the mainly Arab area around Wadi Ara) and East Jerusalem. Most are aged 45 and above, making it hard for them to integrate into the job market without professional training. Personnel agencies such as Brick and government bodies such as the IAA understand this very well.

Antiquities Authority workers get a pension, work clothes and vacation, as well as accumulating seniority benefits,” says an archeologist who knows the employment terms of personnel agency workers very well from his work with them during the last few years. “At Brick, they don’t get paid vacation, pension or seniority, and after nine months they get fired. In addition, they don’t get much respect either. It’s hard to describe this – anyone who complains finds himself without work. When you take away a man’s livelihood, why not mock him too and trample him underfoot if you can? And we’re talking about the Antiquities Authority, which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. It’s not a private business that just aims to maximize profits.”

Why don’t the archeologists speak out?

It’s hard to explain the behavior of academics and intellectuals who see and say nothing. But they are also under threat. When an archeologist asks what happened to Yafa or Sabata, who he knows and likes to work with, Brick says it’s not his business and that’s the end of the matter.”

Dani Ben Simhon, who coordinates the Brick case for the Workers Advice Center (WAC), first heard complaints against the personnel agency a year ago when thirty workers from East Jerusalem came to him after being dismissed at the end of nine months’ employment. Ben Simhon checked their pay slips and was surprised to discover that Brick subtracted NIS 30 each month from their wages for union organization and committee fees. “We questioned the workers and understood that they didn’t even have a workers committee. We checked with the Histadrut and discovered that the organization fees were not being passed on. It seems that the money ended up elsewhere, illegally. Do the math – 30 shekels multiplied by a few hundred workers multiplied by five years, and you get hundreds of thousands of shekels, and it’s not clear where they went. Some of the workers don’t read Hebrew and most of them don’t understand their pay slips. None of them noticed this, and we’re talking about huge sums that were subtracted from their wages and somehow disappeared. They just wanted to continue to work; they didn’t understand that they were stealing from them.”

Following an investigation, WAC decided to submit a claim at the labor court to reinstate the workers as permanent employees of the IAA. “One day they approached a group of dozens of workers and said simply, there’s no work – don’t come to work tomorrow. The workers got no written notice, no advance warning. And when they came to the employment bureau, they were amazed to see that Brick was hiring others in their place. We discovered that in January 2009 Brick asked the employment services for 70 new workers. That month, the employment bureau in East Jerusalem directed 93 workers to jobs at Antiquities Authority digs via Brick. When they told the workers that there was no more work, they were simply lying.”

In addition to the claim that Atts. Bassam Karkabi and Eran Golan submitted for the workers, WAC also requested that the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor initiate an investigation into the affair and revoke Brick’s license to operate as a personnel agency. Labor court judge Daniel Goldberg is expected to rule on the case within the next few weeks. The ruling will have far-reaching implications. This case comprises essential issues regarding the significance of the amendment, Paragraph 12a. “If the court rejects their claim, saying that they are temporary workers, it will prove that the law is meaningless. If the court accepts their claim, it will be an important precedent for other temporary workers in the labor market.”

This doesn’t concern them

In February, during the first hearing at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court, the Brick representative claimed that the workers were not dismissed, citing as evidence the fact that they received no letter of dismissal. An IAA representative added that they were sent home because there was no work because of January rains. Meanwhile, Brick was busy recruiting dozens of new workers to replace those dismissed.

During a hearing in April, Brick manager Eli Mizrahi acknowledged that Brick did indeed subtract thousands of shekels from workers’ wages for union organization and committee fees. He also admitted that the money was not transferred to the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor) as required by law, but was passed back to company coffers. Mizrahi claimed that the money was used to buy hats and sun-cream for the workers. WAC noted that according to the law, the company is obliged to provide such articles for health and safety.

The company’s recruitment methods and humiliating treatment of workers were also exposed during the hearings. Evidence was heard that at the end of each workday, the workers were gathered and told who would be working the following day. The workers described these gatherings as humiliating experiences during which they had to beg to get onto the work roster. Since they receive no paid vacation, whoever doesn’t work doesn’t get a wage. Many times even those who arrived at the pick-up point at five in the morning were sent home because, it was claimed, there was no work for them. According to WAC investigations, Brick workers at IAA sites were employed for an average of only 15 days per month, and their wage was only about NIS 2000 per month.

Careful scrutiny of the employment terms of temporary workers reveals why the IAA prefers to employ via Brick. For each day of work, the IAA pays Brick NIS 242. Brick pays the worker only NIS 165.

The Antiquities Authority management is well aware of the temporary workers’ employment terms, everything is out in the open,” says a senior archeologist. “The workers turn to them to protest the way they are treated, but they don’t say anything, and cooperate [with Brick].”

The IAA management, it appears, is not happy about the archeologists’ support for the temporary workers. “It has to be borne in mind that the IAA archeologists assist the workers and turn them against the Antiquities Authority,” Assistant Director of Finance Benny Harpaz said during an internal IAA management meeting. “It must be remembered that the archeologists have no authority to do so. They shouldn’t act as the workers’ unofficial advisors because this harms the IAA.”

Renovation at rock-bottom prices

Brick owner Eli Chen was once the director general of the Tel Aviv employment bureau. Like his former colleagues, he is very familiar with Paragraph 12a and employment laws. However, at WAC they have a hard time understanding why nobody from the bureau questions the fact that the archeological workers return to the bureau to seek jobs every nine months, or the fact that the pay slips for ostensibly full-time work show such tiny sums. Chen, by the way, does not only maintain contacts at the employment bureau; he is also the brother-in-law of Shlomo Ashkenazi, IAA assistant director general.

It turns out that Chen has no scruples about using personnel agency workers for his own private needs. For example, he hired Fauzi Masalha, who worked through Brick at archeological sites, to renovate his wife’s beauty salon in Kfar Saba. “The work manager told me he had private work for me with Eli Chen,” explains Masalha (66). “After some haggling, we agreed on a low wage, 800 shekels for three days’ work, for me and a tiler’s assistant. We drove with the rest of the workers, and they got off at the dig while we continued to the beauty salon. I did great work for them, and he gave me 500 in cash. He said I would get the rest with the pay slip.”

Why did you agree to this?

Because I realized that if I went along with it, he would ensure I got work at the site and I wouldn’t have to beg each day for work. My friends, all above the age of 60, try to curry favor with the work manager by offering him coffee. I had it easy.”

It has since become apparent that the IAA and Brick turned a few other tricks at Masalha’s expense in order to avoid Paragraph 12a. During the year 2008, Masalha was employed as an archeological site worker for nine months. He was not fired at the end of this period, but neither was he taken on by the IAA as a permanent employee. Masalha discovered that for three months he had received his pay slip from the personnel agency Shirom. In February 2009 he “returned” to Brick. Thus, with the underhand maneuvers of the three companies, Masalha remained without seniority and social benefits, even though he had worked for more than a year at IAA sites. It must be noted that Shirom has never competed for or won an IAA tender. This appears to be a serious breach of the Obligation of Tenders Law that applies to government companies and public bodies such as the Antiquities Authority.

“I would be happy to work at the digs again,” says Miara. “It’s exciting work; you feel like you’re in touch with history. But I would return only on condition that the IAA employs me directly. It’s the least I deserve.”

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A call for messages of protest to the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Ministry of Labor Tue, 14 Apr 2009 18:37:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 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 ( )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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WAC calls for reinstatement of sacked East Jerusalem workers Fri, 06 Feb 2009 12:38:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 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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