Treasury thwarts effort to shield mall security guards from the elements
A proposed law requiring employers to provide such workers with minimal cover has been held up by the Finance Ministry for nearly a year.
Soaring summer temperatures have again trained the spotlight on security guards and bag checkers, many of whom spend their shifts totally exposed to the elements. A proposed law requiring employers to provide such workers with minimal cover has been held up by the Finance Ministry for nearly a year.
The issue drew renewed attention when journalist Yehuda Yaari slammed the Azrieli Group on his Facebook page for making the guards at Tel Aviv's Azrieli Center mall stand unprotected in the sun while working. However, these employees work for security contractors and are not directly employed by the Azrieli Group.
TheMarker was told that bag checkers make NIS 22.50 an hour while security guards earn NIS 26.00, working 8- to 10-hour shifts under the blazing summer sun or in cold and driving winter rains.
Fearing for their jobs, none of those interviewed would go on record or agree to be photographed. Gabi (not his real name ), 64, has worked at Azrieli for four years checking bags, and says he is used to the conditions.
"In the last few years there have been several visits by the media, but nothing's changed," he says. "We were once provided with sunshades but they didn't last long." He works five to six shifts a week, taking home a net NIS 5,200. "I made a big effort to get this job," he adds. "It's hard, but much better than sitting home unemployed."
Danny (also an assumed name ) serves in the regular army but has received permission to work due to financial difficulties at home. As we talk, passersby admonish him to drink in the heat. "It's crazy to have to stand out in this weather," a woman tells him on her way into the mall. Danny says he gets comments like that all the time.
The response from Azrieli Group: "Seeing to the welfare of the workers and the guests is our guiding principle. The issue has been brought to our attention and, together with the security company directly responsible for the workers, we are dealing with the matter with utmost attention."
The predicament of those checking bags and guarding the Azrieli Center isn't unique: It is shared by all security personnel and workers at such sites - the majority of them also working for contractors. Israel has an estimated 70,000 security guards and bag checkers but only about 400 are unionized. Other factors that keep them virtually powerless are the fact that the large majority come from the weakest socioeconomic strata, and that they include a disproportionate number of immigrants over the age of 50.
Being employed by contractors puts the workers in an impossible bind: The contractors claim they haven't the authority to provide shelters on the premises while those contracting for their services - be they malls or municipalities - claim these aren't their workers and they therefore have no obligation to them. In other words: Nobody cares.
Over a year has passed since MK Daniel Ben Simon (Labor) proposed a bill making the party that orders security services responsible for providing shade and cover for the guards in warm weather, and heaters in the winter, rather than the contractors they officially work for. However, the bill, after being approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and passing its preliminary reading, was derailed by the Finance Ministry.
"Conditions for security guards play a major role in the planning and construction of existing and future government buildings," the ministry responded. "The implication is that this bill would add tens of millions of shekels that could fall on the local authorities without any budgetary funding source."