Israeli Labor Union Chief Still at Odds With Economy Minister Over Long Weekend

Histadrut chairman still advocating cutting work week by one hour as alternative

Patrons sit at a cafe in Tel Aviv, June 5, 2016.
David Bachar

Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen met with Histadtrut labor chief Avi Nissenkorn in a so far unsuccessful effort to reach an agreement on long weekends for Israeli workers four times a year.

Nissenkorn remains opposed to the long weekend plan, which was approved by the cabinet earlier this year. Instead, he is lobbying to cut the official workweek of 43 hours by one hour, which he says will amount to the same amount of time off and be easier to enforce without risking wages being cut.

Cohen has been advocating the longer-weekend idea for some time and even sponsored legislation in the Knesset for six long weekends annually, winning the backing of the Manufacturers Association, which was regarded as the key obstacle to get the law passed.

But Nissenkorn has proved to be a bigger barrier. In the public sector, where workers tend to work by time clocks with their work hours closely monitored, the one hour’s saving would be felt. In the private sector, far fewer workers clock in and out and a long weekend would be a tangible benefit.

On the other hand, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the 43-hour workweek in Israel is longer than the average of member countries, which is 40 hours. Cohen and Nissenkorn are due to meet again in the next few weeks.