(photo credit: Illustrative photo: MCT)
On the first day of sanctions at the Lev Hasharon hostel by 100 caregivers for aging Holocaust survivors demanding government rather than contractual worker
status, Welfare and Social Services Ministry Director-General Nachum Itzkovitz
told The Jerusalem Post Thursday he strongly backs their
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Speaking by phone from New York, Itzkovitz – who four years ago
headed an inter-ministry that monitored the implementation of government
decisions on Holocaust survivors and improved their quality of life – said they
deserved the best possible care.
“Survivors, especially those living in
hostels, have the most complicated conditions. We in the ministry never agreed
to the privatization of caregiver services three years ago.
services that don’t have to be provided by state workers, such as
administration. But those employees who give direct care to the needy, such as
the survivors, need their caregivers to be state workers so they can devote
their work hours to them and don’t have to worry about job security,” Itzkovitz
The caregivers at the hostel in Pardesiya said initially they would
provide only partial services to the survivors, but if their demands were not
met, they would regretfully launch a fully-fledged strike. They said when the
government changes contractors for the project, they are at risk of
The Lev Hasharon hostel works committee chairwoman, Rahel
Avrahami, said she had tried for years to prevent a strike so as not to harm the
“But instead of accepting us as government workers, a new
tender was issued that is much more harmful than the previous tender both for
the survivors and the workers.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
promised, as health minister, to absorb us as state employees. We waited, but
nothing happened,” she said.
Asked on Thursday why it has refused all
this time to make the caregivers government employees, the Finance Ministry
stated: “We cannot do this because the project is only temporary,” meaning that
elderly survivors do not have much time remaining to live, and when the last one
dies, the project would be closed down.
The Histadrut labor federation
shot back with an angry statement, charging that the Treasury had “established a
new record of insensitivity.
Are Holocaust survivors not entitled to
caregivers who are satisfied with their work and enjoy rights as employees, or
to frightened ones who are persecuted by one contractor or another?” Itzkovitz
agreed that the Treasury’s statement about the project being “temporary” was
very unfortunate and misguided.
The Finance Ministry had demanded, and
the Health Ministry acceded, to the caregivers being employed by a private
contractor, the “Association for the Advancement of Public Health,” which was
set up by former Health Ministry officials and chosen without a public tender.
It previously was chosen by the government to provide school health service
vaccinations, but its work was highly criticized by the State Comptroller, and
the for-profit organization was replaced by a Magen David Adom subsidiary and
then a heart monitoring company, Nataly.
Itzkovitz noted that a few years
ago, his ministry opposed the privatization of caregiving services for the
mentally disabled, and in the end, the Treasury initiative did not go
The Welfare and Social Services director-general said that upon
his return to Israel, he would speak to his minister, Moshe Kahlon, Litzman and
Health Ministry Director-General Ronni Gamzu about restoring the previous
If privatization did not work well, the use of state workers
should be restored, Itzkovitz concluded.
About 220 caregivers are
employed to take care of survivors at the Lev Hasharon, Sha’ar Menashe and Be’er
Ya’acov hostels. The Histadrut charged that the contractor has been constantly
trying to “break” their efforts to organize, and that at Pardesiya a month ago,
workers were locked out. The Health Ministry promised to open “immediate
negotiations,” the works committee said, but the Health Ministry “is ignoring
The Health Ministry spokeswoman said it “aims to
preserve the quality of treatment for this population.
The deputy health
minister is currently examining all the possibilities to solve the problem to
benefit the residents and their caregivers.”