Unions Set Sights on High-tech Industry

Yaki Halutzi, an official at the Histadrut labor federation's office for organizing new workers, said he was in contact with employees of at least two high-tech companies about forming workers' committees.

Fresh from a victory against mobile operator Pelephone, union leaders say they are now eyeing forays into the high-tech sector, where organized labor has virtually no presence.

Yaki Halutzi, an official at the Histadrut labor federation's office for organizing new workers, said he was in contact with employees of at least two high-tech companies about forming workers' committees under the Histadrut's aegis. The agreement this week by Pelephone to recognize a nascent union is accelerating the process, he said.

"High-tech workers are seeing growing job insecurity," Halutzi said. "Only recently, some 300 workers were let go at Amdocs. Workers in the industry are showing a growing interest in being organized."

He said the process of organizing workers and winning management recognition typically took months. "But there is good reason to assume that 2013 will see the first labor organizing in the high-tech sector," he said.

In the cell phone industry, where conditions for workers have deteriorated after the market was thrown open to competition last spring, Halutzi said he saw strong prospects to follow up on the Histadrut's success at Cellcom Israel and Partner Communications, the two other veteran operators.

Pelephone fought union organizers with what Halutzi called "American techniques" for undermining support among employees. The Histadrut succeeded by ensuring that at every Pelephone service center there is a core of union supporters and by turning to the Labor Court to block management's efforts at countering organizing.

Itamar Evitan, a member of the Pelephone workers' committee and an account manager at the company, said negotiations over a wage agreement will begin next week. Aside from what he termed long-overdue pay hikes for many workers, the union will ask for bigger holiday gifts and better job security.

Daniel Bar- On