Adel Amar, left, with co-worker Abed al-Kareem Atamallah in Reineh this week.
Adel Amar, left, with co-worker Abed al-Kareem Atamallah in Reineh this week. Photo by Gil Eliyahu
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Some 50 council workers in the village of Reineh in the Galilee are accusing the Reineh municipality of depriving them of their social benefits by twice returning them to their starting salaries.

The employees - kindergarten teachers and assistants, caretakers and cleaners in the council's education system - intend to file a lawsuit against the municipality within 10 days.

The workers say their rights were canceled once when the council turned them into contract workers and again when it reemployed them directly. The municipality says that any worker who wants to claim his or her compensation fees will get them.

In 2011, due to a financial crisis, the council outsourced the workers and hired them from a personnel contractor in the Little Triangle area in central Israel.

Adel Amar, who started working at a school in 2006 as a gardener and odd-jobs man, said: "In the first pay slip from the contractor we saw everything had become zero. Incremental salary increases, social benefits, all was erased."

In December 2011 the workers were reinstated as council employees. Instead of having their rights returned, as they expected, they found that once again they began working from their original starting salary and benefits, not even from the nine months' incremental increases they accumulated as contract workers.

Menal Otman of Reineh studied special and preschool education, but is employed as a cleaner in a Reineh school. She is a single mother of two and makes between NIS 2,100 and NIS 2,400 a month. Despite her fear of losing her job, she recently joined the workers' struggle, with the help of the Arab Workers Union in Israel.

Union attorney Ahmad Amara said: "This is an injustice. Changing employers requires the preservation of the workers' rights, or paying them out as compensation or vacation fees."

So far only 12 of the workers have joined the union. "People prefer to keep their low pay rather than jeopardize their living," said Amar.

Walid Tator, head of human resources in the Reineh municipality, said: "The workers did not get compensation, but everything is written down and anyone who wants to will get it. Their seniority will be held to their credit and they can sue ... Perhaps there was a mistake in their pay slips, they need not worry, we have an updated list."