Worker Complaints About Abuse at Work Rise Sharply

The number of complaints about employment terms received by Kav La'Oved Worker's Hotline jumped 20% in April, says a report.

The number of complaints about employment terms received by Kav La'Oved Worker's Hotline jumped 20% in April, says a report published by the nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of workers employed in Israel.

Kav La'Oved attributes the spike to the economic crisis.

The organization has traditionally been more heavily involved in the protection of vulnerable employees - such as migrant workers, asylum seekers, Palestinians or new immigrants - against exploitation. But Kav La'Oved director Hanna Zohar says that now the organization is seeing complaints from middle-class workers employed in high-tech and other well-established industries.

The economic crisis has bred a particularly draconian kind of abuse of workers' rights, says the report, for example forcing unpaid vacation on employees, rather than firing them - which saves employers the cost of compensation. Workers are left not only without a salary, but without access to state unemployment privileges either. Some who asked their employer to provide written confirmation of their unemployed status, which would enable them to apply for unemployment stipends, report that they were refused.

The biggest problem seen was the 10% - 40% cut in workers' salaries. In addition, many employers have trimmed benefits like participation in the cost of cellphone use, sometimes retroactively.

The most frequent complaint received by Kav La'Oved was of a reduction in the amount of time allowed for breaks, and increase in the number of work hours without additional payment. Another common complaint filed was the cancellation of full compensation for sick days. Employers that had customarily paid workers a full-day's wage for sick days have begun adopting the minimum sick-day compensation required by law, meaning no payment for the first day, 37.5% of their regular daily wage for the second and third day, and 75% payment from the fourth day onward.

Another common grievance filed with Kav La'Oved was the deduction of a half-hour's salary for those workers who took a break for lunch. In other cases, employees whose salaries had been cut and had chosen to resign because of the inferior employment terms, found that the unemployment compensation due from their employers was delayed, or their final salaries were not paid in full.

Many workers who chose to resign because of the erosion of their salary terms are finding employers avoiding payment of unemployment compensation, arguing that none is due since the worker resigned at his or her own initiative.

Under the law, any deterioration of employment terms entitles workers to resign with full severance compensation rights.