Employees at Israel's Facilities for Holocaust Survivors Protest Privatization Plan

Netanyahu issued a directive to either issue a new tender for operation of the hostels or put them back under state control; as of Sunday, three facilities employing 210 employees will operate on emergency footing.

Employees at state-run care facilities for Holocaust survivors will initiate work sanctions on Sunday and hold a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem to protest the government's failure to cancel the privatization of these hostels and to recognize their workers as state employees.

The facilities will be on emergency footing, as Lev Hasharon - a residential facility for Holocaust survivors and geriatric mental patients in Pardesiya - was on Friday when 60 employees declared sanctions. Those 60 workers will be joined by 150 or so colleagues at similar facilities in Sha'ar Menashe and in Be'er Yaakov.

Holocaust survivors - Lior Mizrahi / BauBau - 18092011

"We want to win, so in the coming days the fight will only intensify," Ariel Yaakobi, chairman of the state employees' union in the Histadrut labor federation, told Haaretz. "I have no interest in dragging out the protest, so as not to cause harm to the patients, but we will continue until it's over and the workers become state employees."

A few months ago, after the Health Ministry issued highly critical reports about the living conditions in residential homes for Holocaust survivors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a directive to either issue a new tender for operation of the hostels or put them back under state control. A few weeks ago, Netanyahu instructed Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman to look into keeping the hostels within the ministry's purview. The Histadrut is pursuing legal action over the hostel workers' continued employment by subcontractors rather than directly by the state. The employees say that part of the problem is that Netanyahu serves as both prime minister and health minister.

"The prime minister privatizes services and he promised that he wouldn't," Yaakobi said. The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee has called on the Finance Ministry to allocate job slots so that the workers at the hostels can be put on the state payroll.

"We will not permit the privatization of the hostels that care for the Holocaust survivor population," committee chairman MK Yaakov Katz (National Union ) said. "It is inconceivable that a service that is so important to Holocaust survivors would be hurt. The state must take on the hostel employees as regular state employees."

In a statement, the Health Ministry said its goal was to maintain the high quality of service extended to Holocaust survivors.