Israel's Labor Federation Threatens General Strike Over Contract Worker Crisis

Histadrut demands reduction in number of contract workers in government ministers and public sector, says strike will be held July 22.

Histadrut chairman Avi Nissankorn at a press conference, July 7, 2015.
Ofer Vaknin

The Histadrut labor federation (which represents organized labor in Israel) has decided to call a general strike starting on July 22, Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissankorn announced at a press conference at Beit Hahistadrut on Tuesday in the presence of dozens of workers committees.

Nissankorn explained that there has been no progress in his negotiations with finance ministry officials concerning the Histadrut’s demand for a reduction in the number of contract workers in government ministries and the public sector in general.

“We cannot go on living with the humiliating situation in which tens of thousands of contract workers are employed alongside permanent employees,” said Nissankorn. He promised that the strike would commence if significant progress is not made in the talks with the finance ministry in the coming days.

“There will be no compromises in the struggle to halt the contract work phenomenon,” the Histadrut chairman added. “Teachers, social workers, school nurses and security guards at the entrance to government ministries have become contract workers.

"I ask the treasury officials – Why should a teacher have the status of a contract worker rather than be employed directly? Why should a teacher be dismissed after 10 months and have to go collect unemployment? This is what the state looks like.”

The finance ministry said in response that there is room to discuss reducing the extent of contract employment, but only if the Histadrut agrees that simultaneously the management of government ministries and organizations in the public sector will be given greater administrative freedom.

“To improve service to the citizen, the administrations must have more management flexibility so they can dismiss or shift workers in accordance with the organization’s needs,” said a finance ministry spokesperson.