'Businesses will collapse without contract workers'

The Histadrut doesn’t come to this issue with clean hands, says Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce president Uriel Lynn.

By NADAV SHEMER
November 22, 2011 07:04
2 minute read.
National Labor Court, general strike

National Labor Court, general strike_311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Tens of thousands of businesses will collapse if the government meets the Histadrut’s demand to move contract workers to direct employment, the president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC), Uriel Lynn, warned on Monday.

The demand “touches on the freedom of businesses to determine their employment structure. You cannot tell an employer when to carry out work through direct employment and when to do it through outsourcing,” Lynn said during a specially convened meeting of business leaders at the FICC headquarters in Tel Aviv.

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Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini last week threatened a second general strike if his labor federation fails to reach an agreement with the Treasury over the issue of contract workers. The two sides, which are due to report back to the court at the end of the month, have been locked in negotiations since the National Labor Court allowed the Histadrut to hold a four-hour general strike on November 7.

“The solution is not through a change to the employment structure, but rather through a massive change in the work conditions of all workers in every form of employment, and the assurance of their social rights,” Lynn said.

Lynn accused the labor federation itself of shirking an agreement signed with his organization that ensured cleaning and maintenance contract workers earned 20 percent more than the minimum wage required by the law.

“The Histadrut doesn’t come to this issue with clean hands. It collects a broker fee of 0.8% from those receiving the minimum wage or part-time wages below the minimum… I suggest the Histadrut create order in its own house before changing the employment structure of others,” he added.

Ami Lapidot, the president of healthcare corporation Lapidot Group and vice president of the FICC, said employers needed to be granted some sort of flexibility – something he said the Histadrut was preventing.

“My family company, which I established 30 years ago, today employs 300 people. However, we need professional outsourcing for, as an example, security personnel, because they need training and therefore it is far more efficient if a contract company provides these services.

The apprenticeships provided by outsourcing companies are not something employers could provide so efficiently,” Lapidot said.

Stier Group president Israela Stier-Einstein said companies were being forced to do the impossible, and predicted the situation would only get worse. She said her own company, a leading trade fair organization, employed up to 300 contract workers at any given time because of necessity.

“If I have to employ these workers directly, it will mean closing the business,” she said.

Late on Sunday, Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is the most vocal opponent within the ruling Likud party of the continued employment of contract workers, said the issue needed to be addressed as soon as possible.

“We cannot achieve social justice when two people are doing exactly the same work and one receives a wage of NIS 12,000 while the second receives just NIS 4,000, when one receives holiday gifts and the second receives nothing, when one is invited to office toasts and the second is not,” Kahlon said at a conference of 200 deputy mayors in Eilat.


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