(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
MK Lia Shemtov (Israel Beiteinu) announced during a Knesset Labor, Welfare and
Health Committee meeting on Tuesday that she would begin a hunger strike in
support of contract workers.
Shemtov said she would not eat until
committee chairman Haim Katz (Likud) agrees to promote the bill she proposed
along with MKs Haim Amsalem (Shas) and Ya’acov Edri (Kadima) that grants
contract workers more rights.
The bill, which passed its first reading in
the previous Knesset, would make the person who hires workers via a contractor
responsible for those workers and their rights.
“This law puts an end to
the continual harm to contract workers in Israel,” Shemtov said.
government, which is the largest employer of contract workers in the market,
opposes my proposal and is trying to keep it from passing by promising to
initiate its own bill or add it to the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry’s
“There are tens of thousands of starving contract workers,”
“Until my law is [brought before the committee again] under
continuity rules, I have no choice but to start a hunger strike.”
recalled that six months ago, she went undercover as a contract
“I cleaned feces and washed blood from surgery rooms, and
therefore, until these workers get their rights, I cannot sit in my subsidized
cafeteria and let them starve,” she said.
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich
told Shemtov that she should urge her Israel Beitenu colleagues to declare a
crisis within the coalition over the damage being done to the rights of contract
“If we obligate the bodies outsourcing these services to act
responsibly toward contract workers, we will rid them at once of their incentive
to employ [the contract workers]. At the same time, employment of contract
workers is an ideological stance, and there are no signs that this government
will give up on it,” she said.
Acting committee chairman Ilan Gilon
(Meretz) called the state “the biggest criminal” in this matter, and recommended
appointing an official to every government office who would be responsible for
hearing contract workers’ complaints.
“The appointed person will carry
criminal responsibility if it is found that they did not act to prevent abuse,
exploitation and the violation of contract workers’ rights,” he
Ofri Raviv, the deputy chairman of the National Union of Israeli
Students, said his organization had expected the Treasury to change its tone
after a summer of protests over socioeconomic issues, and accused it of
continuing to oppose efficient enforcement of contract workers’
“We won’t relax until we see an end to this ongoing
exploitation,” he added.
Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry attorney
Debbie Sapir-Eliezer said the ministry would continue to work on a bill that
would place managerial, criminal and civil responsibility on the body
outsourcing the employment of cleaning and maintenance workers to contract
The debate over contract workers’ rights gained prominence
after the release in September of the Trajtenberg report on socioeconomic
change, which the Histadrut labor federation claimed legitimized the
continuation of public-sector contracting.
The Histadrut and the Finance
Ministry are due to update the National Labor Court this Thursday on the
progress of their negotiations over the employment status of contract workers.
The negotiations were ordered after the Histadrut held a fourhour general strike
over the issue early last week.