Israel Holds Off Planned Social Workers’ Strike by Freezing Dismissals

At issue are 165 social workers who pay home visits to 100,000 elderly people

Social workers demonstrating in November 2015 in front of the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem.
Emil Salman

The government has temporarily frozen the planned dismissal of 165 social workers who pay home visits to the elderly, following a meeting of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Monday.

Their dismissal would deprive more than 100,000 elderly people who live at home but need help from an aide of any state supervision.

At the committee meeting, representatives of the Finance Ministry, the Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry, the National Insurance Institute and the Union of Local Authorities agreed to hold three weeks of negotiations to find a way to keep funding these positions. During this time, no dismissal letters will be sent to the social workers, while the social workers will hold off on the strike they had planned to launch a week from Tuesday.

Prior to the meeting, about 100 social workers demonstrated opposite the finance and social affairs ministries to protest their planned dismissal.

By law, the Labor Ministry is supposed to finance the home-visit positions, but five years ago it suddenly stopped doing so. The Union of Local Authorities then took over funding these positions, but a few months ago it, too, decided to stop paying the social workers’ salaries. At that point, the ministry announced it would fire all the workers.

Nevertheless, acting Labor Committee chairwoman Tali Ploskov (Kulanu) sounded optimistic at Monday’s meeting. “I see a solution on the horizon,” she said. “It’s clear to everyone that the social workers won’t be fired. We won’t allow the elderly to be harmed; every party in the house is united on this issue.”

Labor Ministry director general Avigdor Kaplan acknowledged that even today, “There aren’t enough positions for dealing with the elderly.”

“We’re trying to persuade the Finance Ministry to allocate additional funding,” he added. “And the NII has already agreed to raise the amount it pays the Union of Local Authorities for the social workers by 25 percent.”