FICC to Bennett: Scrap 36-hour rest rule

Uriel Lynn, called on Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday to revoke 36-hour rest rule.

April 3, 2013 23:22
2 minute read.
Uriel Lynn

Uriel Lynn. (photo credit: Asaf Lev)

Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce business lobby, called on Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday to revoke a rule requiring a 36-hour rest period for workers each week.

“A rest of 24 consecutive hours that doesn’t impinge on Shabbat is certainly sufficient and provides the appropriate balance between weekly rest, which is a value of the utmost importance, and freedom of choice over how many hours to work and when to work,” Lynn said. “The employee will gain, the business will gain and the economy will gain.”

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The regulation in question, part of a law passed in 1951, requires that workers have 36 hours of consecutive rest during a given seven-day period, a specification Lynn says is outdated and inapplicable to modern economic realities. The law, intended to ensure shift workers get a full rest, might prevent them from concentrating their shifts one week to have a longer weekend.

“We’re talking about the paternalism of a legislator from the 50s of last century,” Lynn said.

The Economy and Trade Ministry said the issue was not a new one, and noted that former minister Shalom Simhon appointed the ministry’s director- general Uri Paz to head a committee on issues pertaining to work and rest hours in late 2012, but disbanded it when the Knesset dissolved itself.

The Histadrut national labor federation, which advocates for workers’ rights, had no comment on the regulation.

Corinne Sauer, director of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, praised the initiative but said that in the scheme of Israel’s labor laws, the 36-hour rule was a fairly minor provision.

“It could be more bold, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Sauer. “Israel has very strong labor laws. We’re not as bad as countries like Spain or Italy, but then again, they have 25 percent unemployment.”

Rules that make it difficult to fire even unproductive employees or set rigid salary requirements, she says, are worse. But even small regulations, Sauer argues, can encroach on the ability of a company to use their workers effectively, thus robbing them of resources to hire more workers.

Sauer offers up France’s 35- hour work week as an extreme example of such regulations, which she says take the greatest toll on low-budget small businesses and unemployed workers who are kept out of the labor market.

“It usually hurts the workers with the least education or least experience,” she says.

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