Israel's Medical Lab Workers' Strike Is Over, Negotiations to Continue

Strike broke out due to excessive burden placed on laboratory workers, resulting from difficulties in recruiting and retaining manpower under present wage levels and employment conditions

Medical lab worker at Beilinson Hospital, Rabin Medical Center, Petah Tikva, Israel.
Tomer Appelbaum

A strike by 3,000 medical lab and public health services employees ended on Thursday afternoon, a few hours after it began. They were striking in protest over their work conditions. During the day, laboratories in public hospitals, at health maintenance organizations and in Ministry of Health facilities operated only on limited weekend schedules.

The agreement on their return to normal schedules was reached through the mediation of Labor Federation (Histadrut) chief Arnon Bar-David. Employees will suspend the steps they were taking, and in the coming days representatives of the employees and the Histadrut will start negotiating with a team of Health Ministry and Treasury officials in an attempt to resolve issues that are still under dispute.

According to the Association of Microbiologists, Biochemists and Laboratory Workers, the strike broke out due to the excessive burden placed on laboratory workers, resulting from difficulties in recruiting and retaining manpower under present wage levels and employment conditions. The great burden imposed on medical laboratories was discussed in the State Comptroller’s 2016 report, as well as by professionals in the health system. The load is particularly striking on the backdrop of targets set by the health system, such as the campaign against infections and for improving services, campaigns in which lab workers play an important part.

During the strike no testing of blood, urine, stool and throat swabs was carried out, but a committee was in place for approving tests in exceptional cases. The strike impacted work in operating theaters and on hospital wards, but tests for emergency wards, intensive care, neonatal, oncological and fertilization units continued as usual.

Dozens of striking employees demonstrated in front of the laboratory division at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer. Placards were hung at the entrance to several labs, saying: “We are the unknown soldiers carrying out your lab tests, enabling doctors and nurses to treat you in the most optimal way. We are educated, responsible, and totally committed, but we don’t have the wages or conditions that suit our abilities, which is why we’re striking.”