Union Chairwoman at Israel's Biggest Cellular Operator Accused of Abusing Post

In a complaint shown to TheMarker, Cellcom's Mia Yaniv is accused of pursuing private projects on company time and helping management cover up problems

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Cellcom labor relations chief Mia Yaniv flanked by Cellcom CEO Nir Stern, left, and Histadrut chief Avi Nissenkorn.
Cellcom labor relations chief Mia Yaniv flanked by Cellcom CEO Nir Stern, left, and Histadrut chief Avi Nissenkorn. Credit: Oren Cohen / Histadrut

Labor relations at Cellcom Israel, the country’s biggest cellular operator, have been peaceful compared to other companies like rival Pelephone, where unions have recently been formed. The organizing efforts by the Histadrut labor federation and the negotiations for workers’ first collective labor agreement went smoothly.

Now, however, documents shown to TheMarker might explain why: Mia Yaniv, who led the unionization drive and now heads Cellcom’s workers' committee, reportedly abused her position for her personal benefit, and often for the other committee members, while management looked aside.

Among the many allegations, Yaniv is said to have used her full-time company-paid job as union boss to pursue private business activities and spend time on personal errands. She also stands accused of conspiring with management to keep hidden from employees embarrassing problems at the company.

“The Cellcom workers’ committee chairman has been doing what she pleases, and no one has been speaking up,” said a source familiar with the matter. “The committee members have full-time jobs but aren’t accountable. Management is afraid of the Histadrut and doesn’t supervise or criticize the committee .... They have to put an end to this quickly.”

Unions have only begun to appear at Israel’s cellular companies in recent years as intense competition in the industry forced management to lay off staff and cut back conditions. Cellcom signed its first contract with the Histadrut in February 2015, which gave workers a share of profits and funded full-time jobs for Yaniv and three committee members as well as a personal assistant for her.

According to the complaint, however, Yaniv used the assistant, who was an 11-year veteran at Cellcom, as a babysitter for her son and to run personal errands like paying her municipal tax bill and making dentist appointments. According to the complaint, while on maternity leave, Yaniv asked the aide to take care of her newborn baby while she went to the gym.

Yaniv herself posted an angry message on her Facebook account Monday, saying the aide, whose name is being withheld by TheMarker, is “trying to harm thousands of Cellcom employees and me personally.” In a WhatsApp message she urged her supporters at Cellcom to respond with one voice that the aide had betrayed them.

Cellcom’s workers’ committee echoed this sentiment: “This particularly mean-spirited attack is an attempt to force workers back five years, when the company had no independent union.”

Among the accusations is that Yaniv used her official work hours from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM at hairdressers, cosmeticians and gyms. Most seriously, she is accused of using her time to work on a private business venture to develop an app after she returned from maternity leave last November. Two other workers’ committee members were involved, as was the committee’s legal adviser.

Yaniv also allegedly used company time to attend board meetings of the Jewish National Fund, a post that Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn arranged for her.

Cellcom denies it knew about any abuses and has named a three-person team headed by an outside lawyer to look into what happened. But sources said management in at least two instances conspired with her to keep information from Cellcom employees.

The first involves the company’s GPS system, which tracked employees while they were on the job. Workers consented to the system but were unaware it was used to follow their movements after work and even after they had left the company altogether. The workers’ committee discovered this in March but allegedly agreed with management to withhold the news from employees, in part due to fear of lawsuits.

For its part, Cellcom said the use of GPS beyond the official limits was a technical error involving a few employees and it was corrected as soon as it was discovered.

Yaniv also allegedly helped management cover up health violations at a company cafeteria — and workers’ committee members were allowed to eat their lunches at company expenses at local restaurants.

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