Histadrut, Employers Draft Agreement Over Employee Computer Privacy

Deal adopts a form of the European model, which gives employees a great deal of privacy, even when the computer and the server belong to the boss.

The Histadrut labor federation and employers organizations have formulated an agreement regarding how much privacy employees may have on their workplace computer, and what access should be permitted to their employer.

They have adopted a form of the European model, which gives employees a great deal of privacy, even when the computer and the server belong to the boss.

The American model, in contrast, tends to consider the boss' right to enter an employee's computer as a property right.

A draft of the agreement is now being approved by the employers organization, a member group of the Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations. The Histadrut and the Coordinating Bureau are to report to the National Labor Court this morning on this collective agreement, one of the first of its kind in the world. They will request that it be expanded to include all workplaces.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) is reportedly worried about the agreement, because of its implications for the human rights of thousands of workers. In a letter to the two parties, ACRI asked that the agreement be published so workers and experts could give their opinion before it is signed.

However, Shlomo Neuman, director of the Coordinating Bureau, said the negotiating teams preparing the agreement had based their work on European precedents "so as to balance the employer's right to property and the employee's right to privacy." Neuman also said the legal experts had reached agreements on almost all the issues, and that now the Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations member groups had to approve it. Neuman said he believed the agreement would be signed in the coming weeks.

The report on the agreement will be heard at a hearing on a petition against a precedent-setting decision by the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court that in certain cases employers could legally make use of their workers' personal e-mails. The case involved Tali Isakov, who claimed she had been fired because she was pregnant. However her employer, Panaya, a software company, denied this was the reason, and backed up its claims with messages it took from Isakov's e-mail.

The Histadrut and the employers decided that it would be better for them to agree than for the Labor Court to force an agreement on them.

"The issue is new, important and one of principal. It is accepted in Western countries that norms on this issue, as with other matters in the employment sphere, be determined by agreement between social partners responsible for labor relations," the two groups said in a statement to the Labor Court.

The Histadrut also promised that the agreement would be good for workers, especially compared to the ruling last year against Tali Isakov.