Deal in works on employment of foreign laborers in agriculture
Apart from the seasonal needs, the agreement will gradually cut the number of foreign workers in the field from 25,000 to 16,000.
After months of negotiations, the agricultural sector is poised to agree a deal that calls for the gradual reduction in the number of foreign migrant workers, but also gives farmers the right to hire seasonal migrant laborers from abroad four to nine month a year as required.
The plan is being worked out with the involvement of the finance and agricultural ministries along with the employment and immigration divisions at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor in an effort to address labor shortages in the sector. Apart from the seasonal needs, the agreement will gradually cut the number of foreign workers in the field from 25,000 to 16,000.
The seasonal laborers will be brought to Israel through the Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Authority, based on data provided by the farm organizations and the Agriculture Ministry. The emerging agreement also calls for efforts to increase the number of Israelis working in agriculture, in jobs that would provide them with employment year round rather than just seasonally.
"The new plan will provide an effective assurance to address the chronic shortage of manpower in agriculture and will spur growth in production and agricultural exports abroad," said Meir Tzur, the chairman of the Israel Farmers Federation.
The farmers will pay about $1,000 for every foreign migrant laborer they bring in for seasonal work, which will cover the worker's plane ticket, insurance and various other fees. At the end of the farming season, the worker will be returned to his country of origin.
The agreement that is taking shape is also expected to provide that the cumulative stay in Israel by foreign seasonal workers is not to exceed 63 months, as is also commonly the case currently for other foreign workers brought to Israel. After the 63 months is reached, the farmer will be required to replace the worker with another laborer from abroad. Farmers who are unsatisfied with their employees' performance will also be free to replace them with other foreign workers.
Unlike current practice, the parties to the deal have agreed that workers will not be allowed to move from one employer to another. Enforcement will be stepped up with respect to farm laborers who have illegally left their farm jobs and taken positions in other lines of work, including the restaurant or hotel sector, or in landscaping.