Israeli Crane Operators’ Talks With Employers Falter

The two sides agreed on salaries and other conditions, but the safety issue plaguing the country remains a sticking point.

Workers protesting labor conditions on a crane at a Ra'anana construction site on March 2, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

Talks between the Histadrut labor federation and the Israel Builders Association over crane operators’ rights have faltered and will have to resume soon, the Histadrut said Tuesday.

The labor representatives and the employers’ group reached agreements on salaries and other conditions, which are expected to improve significantly. But the two sides were unable to agree on safety.

Histadrut chief Avi Nissenkorn and Builders Association President Roni Brik had planned to sign an agreement that would address the safety crisis plaguing Israel’s construction industry and make clear the crane operators’ rights.

After a night of negotiations, the sides realized that the safety issue was a sticking point, so they broke the talks off.

Last week 1,200 crane operators stopped work at thousands of construction sites nationwide as part of a one-day warning strike backed by the Histadrut. Some crane operators said that in the days before the work action the manpower agencies that employ them offered them double and triple their salaries not to strike.

The Histadrut first announced a work stoppage about two weeks ago. Last week over 5,000 crane operators held an emergency meeting in Tel Aviv titled “The crane operators will no longer remain silent.”

“We’re here today because the State of Israel in 2017 has left the crane operators without employment security, and without suitable safety conditions,” a leader of the workers said.

“It has neglected the value of human life, as we saw recently in the crane collapse in Bat Yam. We’re all here to say clearly that it can’t go on this way.”

Earlier this month, a crane collapsed in the Tel Aviv suburb, injuring four people, one seriously. Nine cranes collapsed between February 2015 and December 2016 as a result of strong winds and safety failures.