Staff Working With At-risk Israeli Children Strike Over Wages

Negotiations between management and employees operating 19 crisis centers and halfway houses in Jerusalem and Be'er Sheva broke down

FILE PHOTO: A school in Israel.
Gil Eliyahu

Some 300 employees of an organization that works with at-risk children went on strike on Sunday after negotiations with management over their wages and benefits broke down.

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The organization, A Home for Every Child, operates 19 crisis centers, halfway houses and other frameworks for at-risk children aged three to 14 in Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva.

The strike, which will continue throughout the week, was called by psychologists, social workers and counselors at 11 of the organization’s institutions. The affected institutions are the halfway house and crisis center in Be’er Sheva and six clubs, two halfway houses and the crisis center in Jerusalem.

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The organization provides temporary shelter for children removed from their homes by court order. It also provides diagnosis and treatment, operates community programs like youth clubs and parenting workshops, and makes visits to at-risk families to provide personal counseling. These services are provided under contract to the Social Affairs Ministry with funding from the municipalities.

The workers, who belong to the Koach La Ovdim labor federation, say the organization has refused to raise its minimum wage for employees and also doesn’t pay overtime. 

A Home for Every Child said its management has no intention of intervening in the strike, but urged Koach La Ovdim to work with it to get more funding for the organization so that it can afford to give its employees raises, “which they deserve.” It said the funding provided by the government is insufficient, and the organization couldn’t operate at all if it didn’t also receive philanthropic donations. 

“It’s important to remember that the organization isn’t running a factory, where stopping work would cause only economic damage,” it added. Since the children it serves need daily attention, “it’s self-evident that the treatment teams’ strike will harm the children and their families. It’s our right, and perhaps also our duty, to air this issue and explain the strike’s impact on the organization’s operations and the children and their families.”

But Koach La Ovdim responded that precisely because of the sensitivity of their work, the employees must also make sure that they themselves enjoy economic stability.