Ofer Eini, Yuval Steinitz Nov. 1, 2010 (Daniel Bar-On)
Histadrut chief Ofer Eini, left, and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The wage agreement signed in the wee hours of Monday night passes over one group: social workers. They were left out by the Finance Ministry and Histadrut on purpose, that purpose being to sign a separate, more generous agreement with them.

The Finance Ministry agreed to continue negotiations about pay raises for social workers, acknowledging that they have been one of the most deprived segments in the public sector, as far as compensation for work is concerned.

Israel has 15,000 social workers. All have academic degrees yet tend to get paid less than most public-sector workers with higher education. Their average wage is between NIS 7,000 and NIS 8,000 a month, says Nahum Itzkovitch, director-general of the Social Affairs Ministry. That's less than the average wage.

The average wage for employee jobs in August this year, based on seasonally adjusted figures, was NIS 8,418, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics' website.

Itzkovitch adds, however, that long-serving social workers can get up to NIS 24,000 a month or more, in gross terms.

On the flip side, many social workers are employed through nonprofit associations that work by contract with the Social Affairs Ministry. The associations must obey the law, including labor law, but many pay the minimum wage.

The talks about the special pay increase for social workers is being handled by the wages director at the Finance Ministry, Ilan Levin, with Itzkovitch and Yitzhak Perry, chairman of the social workers' trade union.

Itzkovitch says the new agreement will provide greater increases for especially demanding jobs.