Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce President Uriel Lynn on Thursday rejected a proposal by Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini to provide 300 employees of the national labor union to enforce labor laws.
"It cannot be that an essentially governmental function pass to the workers organizations," Lynn said. The labor unions, he added, are not a police force and have no authority to enforce labor laws.
Noting that the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry employs only 20 inspectors to enforce labor laws, Eini said the additional provision supplied by the union would multiply the present force 15-fold without necessitating additional budgetary spending.
"For years, different governments have complained that they have difficulty finding budgetary sources to expand the force of inspectors enforcing labor laws," Eini said. "I am offering the state inspectors without adding one shekel to the budget."
According to Eini, the Histadrut inspectors would be able to contribute their professional experience to the job and "carry out the work with a lot of motivation and a sense of calling, since they are connected to the issue of workers' rights in the core of their being."
FICC's Lynn argued, however, that only the state can enforce laws.
"With all the understanding and appreciation for the good intentions of the Histadrut chairman - who is interested in enforcement of labor laws, which is also in the interest of employers - [we] must not arrive at the operational conclusion that workers organizations function as police. It is the state that must organize itself in accordance [with circumstances] and allocate inspectors for this important goal," Lynn said.
"Employers, for their part, will be happy to cooperate with the workers organizations in order to assist in the formation of the best methods to improve enforcement of labor laws," he added.
Eini noted that his proposal was yet another expression of his efforts to "revive the Histadrut-employers-government triangle," alongside agreements sealed with both the FICC and the Manufacturers Association of Israel, by which labor conflicts would be handled through dialogue and joint committees.
"Every component of the triangle has an interest to strengthen enforcement of the labor laws," since criminal employers would be separated from the law-abiding ones and poverty would be reduced, he argued. "All that is needed now from the government is for it to pick up the gauntlet and authorize [Histadrut] inspectors through legislations or other regulations."
Eini said Finance Ministry Budget Director Kobi Haber had responded positively to the proposal and a Finance Ministry spokesperson confirmed that the matter was still being examined and that "the idea sounds interesting and positive."
The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry said they welcomed Eini's initiative, and that they would examine the possibility of cooperation with the Histadrut on the matter.
Eini, Haber, Finance Minister and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry Director-General Raanan Dinor, and MAI President Shraga Brosh met Thursday night to discuss the proposal further, and agreed to advance cooperation generally between the union, employers, and government.