Israeli Supreme Court 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/FILE)
The National Labor Court held its long-awaited hearing Monday on the Histadrut
labor federation’s request to hold a general strike over the employment status
of contract workers, but it could take weeks until a verdict is
RELATED:Court to convene over Histadrut’s planned strike renewal
Judge Nili Arad said there was no rush to deliver a decision,
and recommended the Histadrut return to negotiations with the Treasury and
employers. Arad said she did not want to rule out the labor federation’s right
to declare a strike, adding that if further negotiations did not produce
results, it should come back to the court for a decision.
Junior university staff to stage open-ended strike
activists demonstrated outside the court during the five-hour deliberation,
including Daphni Leef, the Tel Avivian who sparked last summer’s protests over
the cost of living, and professors Avia Spivak and Yossi Yona, prominent figures
in the protest movement.
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini told Arad that even
if she approved the request, “we would not conduct a strike tomorrow
He said the aim of the request was to speed up negotiations,
because since the court’s previous decision against a strike, “the Treasury has
been ignoring us.”
The court first ordered the sides to conduct
negotiations over the status of contract workers after allowing the Histadrut to
hold a fourhour strike on November 7.
The Histadrut says it wants to put
an end to the practice of employing cleaners and maintenance personnel on a
contractual basis, by transferring them into direct employment. The Treasury
says it supports improving the labor conditions of contract workers, but rejects
discontinuing the practice altogether.
“If there is no right to strike
over the issue of contract workers, then over what other matters is it still
possible to strike?” Eini said at Monday’s hearing. “I am pleased that at least
the judges are still public servants, because if the Treasury has its way on
outsourcing services, soon they will outsource judiciary services and judges too
will become contract workers.”
Eini said negotiations were at a dead end,
and accused the Treasury of withdrawing an offer to approve salary supplements
for cleaners employed in the public sector on a contractual basis.
Treasury, represented at the deliberation by an attorney, called the strike
“political,” and said the matter should be resolved through collective
agreements such as the one signed between it and the Histadrut one year
Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations Chairman Shraga Brosh,
who has also been involved in the negotiations, said he came to the court to
make sure it prevented the strike, but then blamed the government for providing
the Histadrut with justification for its request.
“The claims made by the
state are like those made by a robber who complains he is being robbed. We stand
here today mainly because the government turned the method [of outsourcing
employment] into a system, and it employs tens of thousands of contract workers
on a scale that does not exist in the private sector.”
Israeli Chambers of Commerce President Uriel Lynn said the matter essentially
boiled down to the Histadrut’s desire to prevent businesses from determining
their own employment structure.
“A business cannot be told when to use
labor through direct employment and when to use it through
If we obligate all employers to carry out their business
activities through direct employment, without giving them the ability to
coordinate their activities with evolving market conditions – the result will be
the collapse of tens of thousands of business, as happened in the 1980s,” he