Histadrut Leaps to the Defense of Oppressed Waiters

Israel suffers from employment terrorism, says Histadrut chairman MK Amir Peretz. "People's ability to protest against this form of terror," he said this week, "is less than their ability to protest against the Qassam rockets," in a reference to the recent fatal shelling of the southern town of Sderot.

At a press conference, Peretz declared the launch of a two-week campaign against harmful employment, beginning with a media blitz highlighting the suffering of waiters and waitresses at cafes, restaurants and banquet halls. "A waiter clearing a table has to carry 30 plates at once. Restaurants and cafes are docking tips from these staffers' minimum wages. Nor do they get payment for social benefits, let alone pensions."

The Histadrut's campaign against harmful working conditions may have been prompted by the case two months ago when SuperPharm insisted on its cashiers standing for their shifts. The chain claimed the motive was to maintain eye contact with the customer. Workers' welfare groups, not the Histadrut , took up on the issue, and notched up partial success. SuperPharm now provides orthopedic carpets for the cashiers to stand on.

Peretz admitted that there would be no strike action by wait staff, nor would there be any organized boycott of restaurants and cafes that impose harsh conditions on their staff. "Nevertheless, with the campaign, we can make the public feel uncomfortable." Yuval Albashan, head of the legal offices for workers' welfare, said he had dealt with many cases in which the employer had docked waiters' wages for a meal that was sent back to the kitchen after the customer wanted to change it, or for chipped plates or glasses. "The problem is that this culture is beginning to take root among young waiters who take this type of conduct," Albashan said. "This harsh experience will accompany them for many years, and will become a norm in the sector."