Histadrut to Call Labor Dispute Over Contracted Human Resources Services

Histadrut says human resource agency workers frequently employed under poor conditions that are a blow to their dignity.

The Histadrut labor federation announced Tuesday that it is launching a fight against human resource agencies by declaring a general labor dispute this coming Tuesday. The dispute could lead to a strike, including disruption of essential services.

The Histadrut's focus on what is says is the growing trend of firms to hire through human resource agencies will allow it to take a greater role in the social protest movement. On Tuesday, the Histadrut said that human resource agency workers were frequently employed under poor conditions that were a blow to their dignity.

A number of protest leaders met on Tuesday with Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini and told him the fight against the use of human resource agency employees was one of their important goals.

Eini said he had hoped the Trachtenberg Committee's report would recommend that workplaces should hire their human resource company workers directly, but "apparently the long arm of the Finance Ministry led Trachtenberg to make do with a weak statement on the matter."

According to the Histadrut, there are currently between 300,000 and 400,000 people employed by human resource agencies. They work in a variety of fields, from cleaning and security to secretarial and high tech.

"This is an important struggle, perhaps even historic on the road to attaining true social justice," said Eini. "In many work places, especially in the civil service, workers are employed by means of contractors to cut expenses and prevent them from getting what they deserve."

The Histadrut said it is also demanding that workers currently employed by state agencies and local government under personal contracts, be brought into collective wage agreements.

Eini said that in the past the Histadrut and rights groups had worked to ensure only greater supervision of employment conditions. "In all the struggles we reconciled ourselves to the edict that these workers would remain in the employment of contractors. But in many places, workers can be directly employed" by the workplace, he said.

Eini said directly employing workers did not cost more, because in many cases the place of employment was paying the labor contractor large sums as a middleman.

In response, the president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, Uriel Lynn, said Eini had been sidelined during the recent social protest and was looking for a chance to take center stage. Lynn also said Eini "draws his influence from the sub-cultural conceptual world of cannibalism in order to attack the recommendations of the Trachtenberg Committee, which are admirable."

The Histadrut countered that Lynn himself was a partner in a human resources firm, "and he would be well advised not to express himself on the subject."

In contrast, the president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, Shraga Brosh, said he "understood Eini, who is fighting for a subject close to his heart," and called on the government to begin a dialogue with the Histadrut to avoid a struggle that could deteriorate into a strike.