Israeli General Strike Called Off as Government Agrees to EU Standards

The government will give construction contractors six month to meet European standards for scaffolding that is at least six meters high and 18 months for scaffolding less than six meters in height

A construction site in Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood.
Emil Salman

The general strike planned for Wednesday to protest the large number of deaths on Israeli construction sites was called off on Tuesday night after the government agreed to adopt certain European safety standards.

The planned strike would have shut down airports, banks and all government offices.

The government will give construction contractors six month to meet European standards for scaffolding that is at least six meters (20 feet) high and 18 months for scaffolding less than six meters in height. Scaffolding that is 20 meters high or more will require planning approval.

The general strike was called off after Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Labor Minister Haim Katz, Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant and Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn came to an agreement on the changes in regulations applying on constructions sites. According to the agreement, a professional team will also examine the use of safety nets, and will issue its recommendations within three months.

The parties decided to increase the number of construction site safety inspectors by “hundreds of percent.” While an exact number was not specified, currently there are fewer than 20. The Labor Ministry has admitted that at least 100 more are needed.

The Labor Ministry will also step up enforcement of limitations on the number of hours that construction workers are on the job, to prevent accidents caused by workers who are overly tired.

Regarding crane operators, it was decided to call on the Knesset to pass legislation that would require that cranes be operated only by companies that specialize in that work, in an effort to exert greater control over their operation and to help eliminate the forgery of crane operator licenses. The licenses will also be redesigned to make them more difficult to forge. Government ministries have been promising to reformat crane operator licenses since 2015. Within three months, new criteria will also be set for the expansion of the number of crane operation supervisors.

“We are witnessing more and more casualties every day, new casualties and serious safety incidents that could have been prevented,” Nissenkorn said on Tuesday.

According to the Histadrut, roughly 40 construction workers have died on building sites so far this year and 200 others have been seriously injured.