A proposal in the works would allow hotels in Eilat to hire up to 1,500 workers from neighboring Jordan, amid a shortage of hospitality employees in Israel’s southernmost city.
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Tourism Minister Uzi Landau and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar intend to hand the proposal to the cabinet on Sunday.
The current wording states that the Jordanians would be day workers who return to Jordan after each workday. They would be employed in cleaning, room service and washing dishes in Eilat hotels.
Prior agreements between the Israeli and Jordanian governments allow for the employment of 300 Jordanian day workers in the Eilat region.
The proposal comes as hoteliers in the resort town have declared that the sector is at the verge of collapse due to a shortage of employees. “The manpower crisis in Eilat is growing as summer approaches, and the fall Jewish holidays may cause Eilat’s hotels to collapse entirely, along with the city’s tourism industry as a whole,” wrote Eilat hotel Association head Haim Salimi to Landau.
The shortage in manpower is a result of the dismissal of thousands of foreign workers, who had been illegally employed in Eilat for years with the full knowledge and tacit agreement of the authorities. But, in the framework of mass deportations and detention of foreign workers, it was decided to eliminate this phenomenon of illegal employment by the end of March.
The Economy Ministry stated in response to Salimi’s letter that it did not object to employing Jordanians, with two qualifications – that permits be issued for only 500 Jordanians, and not 2,000 as the hotels were requesting, and that their employment be limited to Eilat, and not other areas such as the Dead Sea, where it noted that efforts to hire workers were in advanced stages.
It also stated that it did not support replacing African migrant workers with other foreign workers, but rather would prefer to see their jobs taken by Israelis. Therefore, the ministry intends to work on a plan that would enable higher salaries for Israelis in these fields, similar to an agreement struck with contractors regarding construction workers.
Some 7,000 to 9,000 Eilat residents work at the city’s hotels, and an estimated 90% of the city’s workforce works in tourism.
Israel’s hotels currently lack some 4,000 employees. The main shortages are in Eilat and the Dead Sea region.
On Wednesday, the Tourism Ministry and the Economy Ministry told hotels that the Economy Ministry’s Investment Center could help them finance salaries of ultra-Orthodox, Arab and single-parent employees by an average of 27.5%.