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Employment Service agrees to freeze controversial welfare-to-work plan
By Lidar Gravé-Lazi
15/01/2014
Employment service workers, who had refused to answer phones and cancelled public visiting hours, return to work.
 

Employment Service chairman Shraga Brosh agreed on Wednesday to freeze the implementation of the welfare-to-work plan, at the behest of MK Haim Katz, Labor, Welfare and Health Committee head. The delay gives the committee time to hold comprehensive discussions on the proposed plan, in addition to providing increased budgets and jobs for Employment Service.

In conjunction with the meeting, Workers’ Union chairman Ofer Levy announced an end to the sanctions imposed this past week and said Employment Service workers, who refused to answer phones and canceled public visiting hours, would return to work Wednesday at 11 a.m.

The welfare-to-work plan, dubbed Wisconsin 2, is a national unemployment program aimed at ensuring that unemployment beneficiaries receive active assistance in searching for jobs, or receive training to acquire the necessary skills to integrate into the workforce.

Employment Service employees protested the plan amid complaints that they were not consulted on it by the Finance and Economy Ministries and that the proposal will drive unemployment benefit recipients from the Employment Service to private entrepreneurs.

“The Economy Ministry is a creative ministry. Every few months the names alternate, but the trend remains to reward companies and individuals in the Israeli economy and to throw large amounts of money their way from time to time. Why hurt the Employment Service? The Employment Service knows how to do the job better and cheaper. It would seem as though the government is obsessed with finding all sorts of ways to please some people.

I do not understand why. This is the beginning of the destruction of the Employment Service,” said Katz during the opening of the committee meeting.

Katz addressed the Employment Service chairman, “Shraga, the Finance Ministry doesn’t regard you, it is using you. And why is a representative of the Economy Ministry not here? Did they send you to be slaughtered? I regret throwing it at you, you’re honest and good, but we refuse to go with you on this adventure.”

Shraga answered in turn, “The task of handling 250,000 unemployed is solely the role of the Employment Service.

We do not support the Wisconsin plan.

There is no connection and no similarities between the Wisconsin plan and the plan we are asking here: to have a pilot for a few hundred people who face deep unemployment. We are powerless to do everything with the meager means of the Employment Service.

There is no such expertise in the Employment Service; no authority is being taken from the service employees.

I would be happy if you force the Treasury to add new positions.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said of the intended plan, “We already had a pilot named Wisconsin and it cost hundreds of millions. You disregarded us, and you do not care that we took these plans off the agenda? This is a component of Wisconsin, you are doing this without authority and without permission and are sticking your finger in the eye of the Knesset.”

MK Rina Frenkel (Yesh Atid), a former executive at the Employment Service, defended the plan: “There is a large burden on the Service, employees do not have the necessary tools, and they cannot individually respond to each demand. Even today the Employment Service hires services from outside companies. Nobody is talking about privatization. This is only a pilot program that is intended to help. If it doesn’t work, nothing happens.”

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