Histadrut, Coffee Bean strike breakthrough labor deal

The Histadrut and the Coffee Bean coffee shop chain signed a collective labor agreement, the first of its kind between the union and a restaurant.

Coffee Bean 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Coffee Bean 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A very sophisticated and thriving cafe culture has been developing in Israel, but workers' rights in the restaurant sector have been largely unprotected. That is about to change. The Histadrut Labor Federation and the Coffee Bean chain of coffee shops on Tuesday signed a collective labor agreement, the first of its kind between the union and a restaurant. It ends a long work dispute between employees in Coffee Bean's 14 establishments and management. "The management and owners of the chain should be praised for this breakthrough agreement," Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said Tuesday. "The Histadrut was able to put its foot in the main door of an area where it had no previous presence." The agreement should set an example for other workers in the restaurant sector to form unions and protect their rights, he said. Under the terms of the agreement: • Ten percent of the coffee chain's annual profits will be granted to its 300 employees. • An employee who works for at least a year will receive benefits of between half a salary and a full salary. • Each employee will receive lunch for the symbolic price of NIS 5. • Management committed to abide by the law and pay transportation fares for employees, or organize transportation during the hours transportation is unavailable. The international chain first opened in Israel five years ago. "The chain's customers and employees know today that the chain's employees have the best working conditions in cafes throughout Israel," Coffee Bean Israel CEO Shai Cohen said Tuesday. "The chain's employees are partners in the success of the chain and in its competition in the cafe market." The struggle for union rights at the restaurant erupted last year, when workers at the Coffee Bean branch on Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv began to press for improved conditions. In July 2007, an employee activist who had attempted to form a workers' union was fired. Together with the Histadrut, the worker successfully sued the franchise for illegal dismissal. Meanwhile, management refused to enter into negotiations for a collective agreement and began putting pressure on workers who supported the attempt to organize. Workers responded to the ongoing intimidation and harassment by calling a strike on January 22, with the support of the Histadrut and activists who demonstrated outside the restaurant. At the beginning of February, Coffee Bean's management backed down to national pressure and media exposure and agreed to enter into negotiations with the Histadrut. Under the terms of the agreement, the employees at the Tel Aviv branch on Ibn Gvirol Street will be awarded a one-time benefit to solve the ongoing dispute over their tips, which allegedly they did not receive for an entire year, starting in May 2006.