Israel's Nuclear Workers Engaged in Secretive Labor Dispute

Workers have turned to the courts to declare the government in violation of a court order barring it from deducting salaries

A partial view of the Dimona nuclear power plant in the Negev desert.
Thomas Coex/AFP

In what is probably Israel’s most secretive labor disputes, staff at the Dimona nuclear research center asked the Be’er Sheva District Labor Court on Tuesday to declare the government in violation of a court order barring it from deducting salaries.

As labor disputes go, the maneuvering between management and employees at Dimona is nothing out of the ordinary. The workers have declared a formal labor dispute to protest the absence of any collective labor agreement since 2009 and have engaged in unspecific actions since then.

But the Dimona center, formally known as the Negev Nuclear Research Center, conducts classified research and the government has won orders barring employees from talking to the media about the labor dispute and even issued arrest warrants on national security grounds.

In court documents, however, employees said management had made deductions of tens of percent in the July paychecks of workers even when the employees filed reports of their work hours and activities as required. An August 14 court decision limited deductions to 10% for staff that filed work reports.

“The steps taken by the government were done to punish workers who chose to protest with the express purpose of ‘breaking’ them and their spirit,” they told the court.