Some 2,000 employers were fined a total of NIS 25 million for violating the Youth Labor Law in the past seven years, according to data presented to the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child on Tuesday.
The committee convened to discuss the dangerous employment of children in violation of the law, following an incident early this month in which a 17-year-old Ethiopian boy was critically injured while working after legal hours at the Tempo beverage plant in Netanya.
“Youth are more vulnerable than adults to exploitation and discrimination at work, even in large companies,” said acting-chairman MK Hilik Bar (Labor), who initiated the discussion along with MKs Michal Rozin (Meretz) and Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid).
Bar emphasized that this case was one of many examples in which youth’s rights were unenforced and violated.
He called on the Economy Ministry to prevent such incidents and to appoint inspectors dedicated to enforcing the Youth Labor Law. He called on the Economy and Education ministries along Hano’ar Ha’oved Vehalomed – the Histadrut labor federation’s Noar Oved movement to raise awareness among minors of their rights.
“When some 30 youth are sitting in the hearing today, and when they were asked who among them is aware of his rights or read a document on the subject, no one raised a hand. That alone should set off a warning signal to the government ministries responsible for employment of youth,” said Bar.
According to Meir David, a representative of the Economy Ministry, there are some 150 inspectors enforcing all manner of labor laws. In the years 2007 to 2013, around 2,300 investigations were opened against alleged violators of the Youth Labor Law and charges were brought against 164 employers. In addition, 1,960 employers were fined a total of NIS 25 million.
“Training of our inspectors allows full enforcement of all labor laws, and they are very familiar with the law and the way to interview the youth.
Seventy percent of the investigations we made are of our own initiative, and we work irregular hours if there is suspicion that youth are being exploited illegally,” said David.
Rozin said many parents try to educate and instill a strong work ethic in their children, who work in temporary, non-professional jobs and are unaware of their rights. The incident in Netanya raises the question whether the Economy Ministry really sees this issue as a “top priority,” she said.
Five youths were killed in work-related accidents between 2008 and 2011, and in 2010, 1,087 youths were injured at work, statistics from BETEREM – Safe Kids Israel showed.
Hadara Rozenblum, a representative of the Education Ministry, said that beginning in the coming school year, 10th- through 12th-grade students will receive guidance on the subject. “The main problem is that youths rarely complain.
They really want to work and want to keep their jobs,” she said.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child, called on the Economy Ministry to amend the “archaic” Youth Labor Law and not allow the guilty parties in the latest incident to “come out clean.”
Gil Segal, vice president for Human Resources at Tempo, said the company does not employ children under the age of 18 as standard practice and that the boy who was injured was working at the factory through a temp agency.
He received training as well as instruction and safety guidelines that he signed, and had entered a restricted area where he was not allowed, Segal said.
According to Segal, an inspector from the Economy Ministry visited the plant two months earlier and found it to be safe. “There was no step we could have taken” to prevent the accident, and since then the company has instituted a policy to check every employee’s government-issued ID card, including temp employees, to see if they are minors he said.
Liat Kablo, the temp agency representative who sent the boy to work at the plant, said the accident was being investigated but that the agency only employs minors with work permits and proper medical clearances.