subcontract - Michal Fattal - October 23 2011
A protest in Jerusalem against subcontracting. Photo by Michal Fattal
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The Histadrut labor federation could launch a broad general strike as early as Wednesday, after declaring a labor dispute over subcontracted workers at the beginning of the month.

Following the declaration of a labor dispute, a union must wait two weeks in order to strike.

The union's protest has helped put the issue of workers employed through subcontractors on the public agenda. Israel is believed to have the highest rate of subcontracted workers in the OECD - a full 5% to 10% of all workers are subcontracted, as opposed to the 1.5% OECD average.

The state employs 12,000 subcontracted employees, who make up 20% of its entire workforce.

As a group, subcontracted employees are the worst-earning sector of wage earners. Furthermore, labor law enforcement is weak when it comes to subcontractors, and thanks to accounting tricks, many workers actually earn less than minimum wage. Many also do not receive their social benefits as required by law.

The Histadrut, led by Ofer Eini, improved subcontracted workers' terms considerably by pushing for an amendment that forces employers to hire them as regular workers after nine months. It also pushed through collective wage agreements for some security guards and sanitation workers.

The current labor conflict is designed to further limit the phenomenon, first by striking agreements with the government and private employers. Some say it is an attempt by Eini to play a role in the current wave of social protests.