Dispute Within JNF After Private Eyes Hired to Spy on Workers

'Over the past few years, the JNF has been going through an organizational recovery process, which includes improving oversight on donors’ money. As part of that, there are ongoing checks,' Jewish National Fund responds.

David Shay

Past and present senior executives at the Jewish National Fund are contesting Director General Meir Shpigler for hiring a private investigations firm to spy on organization employees.

The hiring of the private eyes created a crisis between Shpigler and the JNF union, headed by Israel Goldstein. The union has been demanding Shpigler’s dismissal, after Shpigler admitted in conversation with Goldstein that he had hired the firm after receiving complaints about a specific employee.

Board member Dalia Tibon Lagziel wrote in a letter last week that hiring a private firm to spy on employees is a violation of proper workplace relations, and may also be illegal. “I’m under the impression that the workers and their union representatives are feeling disconnected, to say the least, from the management in general and the director general in particular,” she said.

Yael Shaltieli, who was director general from 2009-2012, sent a letter to board chairman Dani Atar, asking he block the dismissal of the senior employee who had been tracked by the investigations firm. That employee has been called for a pre-dismissal hearing. Regional managers also asked Atar to block the individual’s dismissal.

Shaltieli described the employee as “devoted, moral, and honest, with excellent interpersonal relations.” Management has proper ways to deal with any alleged faults in the employee’s performance, she said.

Kobi Mor, head of the JNF Land Development Authority, said in a letter to Shpigler that after it emerged that the latter had installed cameras at the entrance of the development authority’s offices to catch employees’ misdeeds, Shpigler had pledged not to take similar action in the future without informing the proper individuals.

“You’ve allegedly gone back to these inappropriate methods. I don’t understand this determination to catch and fire workers.”

Mor also accused Shpigler of cutting him out of communications with regional managers, despite his repeated appeals.

JNF said in response, “Over the past few years, the JNF has been going through an organizational recovery process, which includes improving oversight on donors’ money. As part of that, there are ongoing checks, and all complaints are handled in keeping with findings. In response to reports of unreliable or false worker hour reports, the director general asked that the matter be examined, and when there were discrepancies between reported hours and actual hours, an organized hearing was held, as is done in any properly run organization.”