Social Workers End Strike After Israel's Treasury Agrees to Raise Wages

Under new agreement, workers will receive a one-time coronavirus stipend and wage increases starting July 2021

Lee Yaron
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Social workers demonstrate against overwhelming working conditions in Haifa, July 19, 2020
Social workers demonstrate against overwhelming working conditions in Haifa, July 19, 2020Credit: Rami Shllush
Lee Yaron

Israel’s social workers ended their strike, which lasted more than two weeks, after the Finance Ministry backed down from its refusal to raise salaries on Wednesday.

Social workers were protesting the collapse of social services, a huge caseload of hundreds of families per worker, low pay and unsafe working conditions. The strike had halted services for 1.5 million people living in poverty, victims of violence, at-risk children, disabled people, and elderly people without family, all of whom needed government assistance even before the coronavirus outbreak.

Under the new agreement, social workers would begin receiving raises in July 2021, at a total of 200 million shekels ($58.6 million). Under the agreement, all social workers will also receive a one-time coronavirus stipend of 9,000-11,000 shekels. In addition, 70 million shekels will be budgeted to protect social workers from violence.

The social workers’ union said in a statement that it secured “a great achievement for our professional and financial future,” adding that terms of employment will be changed with a new “historic” agreement to be signed within a year.

Social workers protest in Tel Aviv on July 21, 2020.
Social workers protest in Tel Aviv on July 21, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said "no one was left behind" in the agreement, which will be brought before the cabinet with the agreement of Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu.

The agreement was a result of negotiations between Katz, Labor and Welfare Minister Itzik Shmueli, Social Workers Union chairwoman Inbal Hermoni and the Histadrut Labor Federation chairman Arnon Bar-David.

On Tuesday, demonstrators blocked streets in Tel Aviv and called for the government to back down. They were joined by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who called on the treasury to intervene immediately in ending the strike.

Hermoni, who led the strike on behalf of workers, said “Hundreds and thousands of cases are not being dealt with. The fake news that there are functioning welfare services in Israel must end. We won’t be the fig leaf anymore for the so-called welfare [system] in Israel.” Hermoni said that for the past 16 days, there was no one to help at-risk children, women suffering from domestic violence and elderly people in isolation, and yet "We are not willing to give up, not willing to settle for crumbs, those days are over.”  

On Monday, the Finance Ministry reached an agreement with the nurses' union, who were on strike for just one day, accepting demands for thousands of new positions and a wage increase.

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