Welfare official: Give caregivers state employee status

Director-General Nachum Itzkovitz says workers taking care of survivors should not have to worry about job security.

By JUDY SIEGEL ITZKOVITCH
September 16, 2011 05:27
3 minute read.
Watching loved ones aging can be difficult

Elderly_521. (photo credit: Illustrative photo: MCT)

On the first day of sanctions at the Lev Hasharon hostel by 100 caregivers for aging Holocaust survivors demanding government rather than contractual worker status, Welfare and Social Services Ministry Director-General Nachum Itzkovitz told The Jerusalem Post Thursday he strongly backs their demands.

Speaking by phone from New York, Itzkovitz – who four years ago headed an inter-ministry that monitored the implementation of government decisions on Holocaust survivors and improved their quality of life – said they deserved the best possible care.

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“Survivors, especially those living in hostels, have the most complicated conditions. We in the ministry never agreed to the privatization of caregiver services three years ago.

There are services that don’t have to be provided by state workers, such as administration. But those employees who give direct care to the needy, such as the survivors, need their caregivers to be state workers so they can devote their work hours to them and don’t have to worry about job security,” Itzkovitz said.

The caregivers at the hostel in Pardesiya said initially they would provide only partial services to the survivors, but if their demands were not met, they would regretfully launch a fully-fledged strike. They said when the government changes contractors for the project, they are at risk of dismissal.

The Lev Hasharon hostel works committee chairwoman, Rahel Avrahami, said she had tried for years to prevent a strike so as not to harm the residents.

“But instead of accepting us as government workers, a new tender was issued that is much more harmful than the previous tender both for the survivors and the workers.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised, as health minister, to absorb us as state employees. We waited, but nothing happened,” she said.

Asked on Thursday why it has refused all this time to make the caregivers government employees, the Finance Ministry stated: “We cannot do this because the project is only temporary,” meaning that elderly survivors do not have much time remaining to live, and when the last one dies, the project would be closed down.

The Histadrut labor federation shot back with an angry statement, charging that the Treasury had “established a new record of insensitivity.

Are Holocaust survivors not entitled to caregivers who are satisfied with their work and enjoy rights as employees, or to frightened ones who are persecuted by one contractor or another?” Itzkovitz agreed that the Treasury’s statement about the project being “temporary” was very unfortunate and misguided.

The Finance Ministry had demanded, and the Health Ministry acceded, to the caregivers being employed by a private contractor, the “Association for the Advancement of Public Health,” which was set up by former Health Ministry officials and chosen without a public tender. It previously was chosen by the government to provide school health service vaccinations, but its work was highly criticized by the State Comptroller, and the for-profit organization was replaced by a Magen David Adom subsidiary and then a heart monitoring company, Nataly.

Itzkovitz noted that a few years ago, his ministry opposed the privatization of caregiving services for the mentally disabled, and in the end, the Treasury initiative did not go through.

The Welfare and Social Services director-general said that upon his return to Israel, he would speak to his minister, Moshe Kahlon, Litzman and Health Ministry Director-General Ronni Gamzu about restoring the previous agreement.

If privatization did not work well, the use of state workers should be restored, Itzkovitz concluded.

About 220 caregivers are employed to take care of survivors at the Lev Hasharon, Sha’ar Menashe and Be’er Ya’acov hostels. The Histadrut charged that the contractor has been constantly trying to “break” their efforts to organize, and that at Pardesiya a month ago, workers were locked out. The Health Ministry promised to open “immediate negotiations,” the works committee said, but the Health Ministry “is ignoring its commitment.”

The Health Ministry spokeswoman said it “aims to preserve the quality of treatment for this population.

The deputy health minister is currently examining all the possibilities to solve the problem to benefit the residents and their caregivers.”


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