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Cleaners' wages are shameful, the owner of employment agency Tsevet 3 said in response to a letter from the Finance Ministry opposing an extended collective wage agreement with a 20% raise for cleaners. The letter was unjustified, and would have better unwritten, Nir Gilboa said.

Gilboa, whose business employs 1,000 cleaning workers (in addition to security guards), made the comments despite the fact that his company is a member of the federation of cleaning companies operating under the umbrella of the Manufacturers Association, which also opposes the extension of the agreement. The original agreement was signed between the Histadrut and the umbrella group.

"After many years during which there was no agreement to improve the employment of cleaning workers, it's time for someone to stand up and tell the truth: cleaning workers are paid low, even humiliating wages," Gilboa said.

"The exploitation of cleaning workers is caused by tenders issued by government ministries and their affiliates, which are aimed at employment agencies that employ cleaning companies."

These tenders specify low prices, forcing bidding companies to cut wages of cleaning workers in order to stay profitable.

"That's the root of the problem - not the collective agreements," he said.

Cleaning companies that don't want to degrade their employees' conditions have opted out of government tenders for cleaning services, he says, "because faced with a choice of winning a tender and paying their workers less than minimum wages, or opting out of a tender to maintain reasonable conditions, they prefer the latter."

Gilboa added that Tsevet 3 has recently decided not to compete in a tender for cleaning services that was issued by Elbit Systems "because the company would have been forced to cut employee wages by 10%.