Israeli Labor Federation Set to Call National Strike Over Construction Deaths

Some 36 construction workers have died in workplace accidents this year, while two visitors have also died at construction sites

A construction site in Bnei Brak, Israel.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Histadrut Labor Federation is expected to call a nationwide strike due to the government’s inaction over construction site deaths.

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Israel’s largest union is planning an emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss the matter. Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn is expected to announce a nationwide strike, after the government failed to respond to his call to action over the past few weeks to put a halt to construction deaths.

Some 36 construction workers have died in workplace accidents this year. Two visitors have also died at construction sites.

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Two weeks ago, Nissenkorn declared that if the government and Knesset don’t take meaningful steps to stop the phenomenon, the Histadrut would launch a general strike. That day, two construction workers died on the job.

The Histadrut enumerated several demands, including the adoption of European standards for construction and strengthening enforcement of security measures, including mandatory harnesses.

The Histadrut also demanded that all government construction and infrastructure tenders include security requirements. MKs Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya, Eli Alalouf and Eyal Ben-Reuven did indeed submit such a bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, but the committee put off discussing it until four months from now.

The bill would require companies participating in construction tenders for the government, municipalities, government companies, and other government entities to meet safety standards. The goal would be making safety standards uniform.

MK Hajj Yahya said the proposal was rejected on the grounds that it would raise construction costs, as well as housing costs for projects with government involvement. He called this claim “ridiculous.”

“This proves above all the government’s approach to everything that has to do with labor accidents in the construction sector,” he said. The actual cost for large construction projects is nearly nothing, he said.

Meanwhile, the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene has launched an information campaign, putting billboards in Arabic in areas where a large number of residents work in construction. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of safety rules and warn that violating them could cause deaths.