Foreign Workers Have Rights Too

This is the first prime minister to employ a foreign worker, Why can't one of the most important institutions in Israel be a beacon for obsolescent values such as 'fair employment' or 'employing Israelis?'

Orly Vilnai
Orly Vilnai
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Orly Vilnai
Orly Vilnai

Before asking who attacked who - Sara or Tara - we should ask why a foreign worker is employed in the prime minister's residence in the first place.

This is the first prime minister to employ a foreign worker. Why can't one of the most important institutions in Israel be a beacon for obsolescent values such as "fair employment" or "employing Israelis?"

Ofek, the daughter of a foreign worker, leaving a plane in July, 2011.Credit: Noa Galili Amutat

How could the same prime minister deport migrant workers' children with one hand, while employing a migrant worker with the other? He is actively institutionalizing foreign workers' employment and funding it.

It is clear that the only way to reduce the destructive implications of migrant workers in Israel is to restrict their employment to a minimum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot morally afford to employ a migrant worker in his formal residence. He can afford to pay for an Israeli domestic, one whose hours are counted and paid in full, as required by law, not one who can be taken advantage of and put to work from morning to night.

Some argue that Israelis simply don't want to work, that no Israeli would take on the difficult job of nursing the infirm, so there is no choice but to employ foreigners. We checked this out and the facts tell a completely different tale. The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's figures show that about 78,000 Israeli women and 11,000 men are employed as caretakers in institutions and private homes.

Regrettably, most of these jobs are temporary and tenure or social rights are out of the question. But Israeli caretakers are available and can be hired at any moment.

People work at what they can get and take any job that pays.

True, the foreign worker took care of the prime minister's wife's father before he moved to the official residence. But when he did, Netanyahu would have done well to change that. Because look at us - we've become a nation of masters and servants, surprised every time to find the slaves we wanted are human beings. The kind who have needs, who - God forbid - even fall in love every now and then and have children.

But we only want their yield, not their soul. So we import and deport them, financing a golden revolving door that enriches the personnel agencies, some of which abuse the workers. In the same breath we pay Israeli workers lower and lower wages. If a boss can employ a Turkish welder for NIS 3,500 a month from morning to night, why should he even offer the job to an Israeli?

The low unemployment figures don't reflect this at all, because Israelis have to work - but they do it on starvation wages.

Foreign workers should not be brought to Israel as long as there are Israelis looking for work. But once the state brings workers into the country it must be responsible for their rights and welfare.