Israeli Cities Forcing Preschool Aides to Work During Passover

Assistants protest that they ‘suffer systemic violation of their terms of employment’

FILE PHOTO: Israeli kids play outside of a preschool.
Emil Salman

Thousands of Israeli preschool assistants are being forced to work during the Passover holiday in daycare camps that the municipalities organize each year.

The idea behind the daycare, provided at state-run preschools (usually for extra pay) is to help parents who have to work during the Passover holiday, while schools are on a roughly two-week break.

Under their collective employment agreement, preschool assistants are only supposed to work on the first and last day of the Passover holiday, to clean up the facility after weeks of use, then prepare it for the children’s return from vacation.

Dozens of complaints that the preschool assistants are not being given a choice in the matter were fielded at Itach – Women Lawyers for Social Justice, a nonprofit organization that has been helping the organization of preschool assistants.

Last week Itach and representatives of the preschool assistants wrote a joint letter to labor unions, asking for their support in making the local authorities comply with the employment agreement.

“Preschool assistants suffer from systemic violation of their terms of employment,” wrote the representatives, adding that the various cities adhered to the agreements where they found it convenient. The requirement by some local governments showcases the different treatment the preschool assistants get in different places despite their collective employment terms: selective compliance results in violations and exploitation, they wrote. It is the union’s duty to prevent illegal impairment of the preschool assistants’ terms of employment, such as through being forced to work during holiday season (schools are off from April 2 to April 18 this year).

The problem is especially acute for the second assistant hired at the preschool: The primary one is usually on vacation too, one assistant told Haaretz, adding that she didn’t want the extra pay – she had children too and wanted the time off. “They could have at least asked me,” she said.

A representative of the teachers union said the issue had been handled everywhere it was a problem, and assistants who worked during the holiday would get extra pay.