Dozens of Workplaces for the Disabled at Risk of Being Shut Down

After proving unable or unwilling to implement the Finance Ministry's belt-tightening plan, some 50 vocational rehabilitation and training centers may be forced to close.

Haim Bior
Haim Bior
Haim Bior
Haim Bior

The countrywide network of some 50 vocational rehabilitation and training centers providing employment and services for the disabled faces the risk of being shut down at the end of this month after having accumulated a NIS 20 million deficit.

The network, defined by the government as a public trust, was ordered by the Finance Ministry last year to institute a recovery plan. The plan demanded that the centers make changes to existing collective labor agreements, cancel their public trust status and cut back 150 jobs. The workers' committee protested all these measures and impeded the layoff process. Only 40 members of the professional staff have been fired at this point.

According to Bella Mais, chairwoman of the workers' committee, the Histadrut labor federation already declared a labor dispute a year ago and the centers, currently operating without an approved budget or cash inflow, could soon be forced to shut down.

The Keren Vocational Rehabilitation Centers in Israel, founded in 1964, provides employment and vocational services to people with physical or emotional disabilities who aren't capable of joining the regular job market. Their work involves basic tasks – simple assembly or the packaging of products, for example – and pays just NIS 600 to 700 a month on top of their disability allowances from the National Insurance Institute. The centers employ a professional staff numbering 600, including instructors, vocational counselors and social workers, as well as administrative and maintenance staffs.

Workers at a call center that helps the disabled.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Disabled demonstrators outside the Knesset on Oct. 25, 2010. Credit: Emil Salman

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