Israeli Social Workers to Launch Sanctions to Protest Violence and Overwork

Union head: ‘We have to make a decent living, not become a punching bag’

Inbal Hermoni, chairwoman of the Social Workers Union, at a protest, November 12, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Social workers announced Monday that they would launch sanctions next week to protest violence against them and excessive work demands.

Nine days ago the Social Workers Union had said their members would not see clients for these reasons, but because of the rocket barrage in the south last week the sanctions were canceled. The new announcement did not specify the scope of the sanctions.

Social workers are protesting that they have been given additional work, but without an increase in staff or resources. They are also demanding additional security in their workplaces.

They argue that employers must protect them through a variety of means, including panic buttons, security guards, protective equipment and training to cope with and prevent violence.

Earlier this month there were several incidents of violence against social workers. In Beit Dagan, a client attacked a social worker in the local council’s social services department, smashing the social worker’s windshield with a hammer while she was sitting in it, and tried to choke her.

“If there won’t be a real solution to our work conditions, the pressure and the work, there won’t be any more social services in Israel,” said Inbal Hermoni, chairwoman of the Social Workers Union.

“Social services in Israel are not on the brink of a crisis, they are deeply in crisis already. Hundreds of existing positions in the local authorities’ welfare departments go unfilled for a year or two because of the poor working conditions and low wages," she added. "Social workers have to be able to make a decent living and not become a punching bag.”

MK Itzik Shmuli, head of the social workers caucus in the Knesset, said, “The government has abandoned the social workers and left them without support, without tools and without protection. It’s crazy that they’ve turned into peoples’ punching bags, and all the Social Services Ministry does is issue declarations of support to the media. We are demanding a thorough handling of the lack of security and positions.”