Striking Social Workers Near Deal With Finance Ministry to Up Wages by 25 Percent

The Finance Ministry and the Histadrut labor federation framed a collective bargaining agreement yesterday and late Monday night for state-employed social workers that includes an average salary increase of 25 percent. The contract, which will be in force through the end of 2014, paves the way for ending the strike that began 12 days ago. The strike will end when the contract is signed.

The salary hike comprises the 7.25-percent wage increase and the one-time NIS 2,000 bonus that are part of the comprehensive wage agreement for all state employees signed in November, as well as a NIS 1,100 monthly pay raise. This across-the-board increase creates a differential wage hike, as the amount represents a larger percentage of the salary of lower-paid workers and a smaller percentage of the monthly wage of those higher up the ladder.

In addition, the social workers will receive a clothing allowance equal to 1 percent of their salary. Certain employees will also get an additional 1 percent as compensation for previous pay-scale distortions. Women with one child under the age of 5 will receive another NIS 300 a month, starting in the 2011-2012 school year; those with two children under 5 will get another NIS 200 a month.

The NIS 1,100 hike will be introduced in four steps, starting with NIS 400 added to the January 2011 salary. The following steps will see an additional NIS 300 starting in January 2012, NIS 200 from January 2013 and NIS 200 from January 2014.

Pension contributions are set to go up by 2 percent, from 17.5 percent to 19.5 percent, with employees and employers each putting in an additional 1 percent.

The workweek for full-time social workers will increase from 39 hours per week to 40.5, the equivalent of 5 percent of their salary. In addition, a few hundred social workers employed by local governments who are working halftime due to budgetary restrictions will see their positions expanded to 75 percent of a full-time post.

The new wages agreement gives social workers employed by nonprofit organizations in the wake of the privatization of government services a guarantee of a monthly full-time salary of no less than NIS 6,500 or NIS 7,000. These workers are also to be included in all future collective bargaining agreements, despite not being unionized.

Still to be worked out is a mechanism to ensure that state funds allocated to these NGOs for the purposes of raising the social workers' salaries are not diverted for other purposes.