Histadrut warns of new sanctions by Meuhedet staff

Labor federation says "fictitious" worker committee has prevented employees from organizing.

September 20, 2011 05:34
3 minute read.
Kupat Holim Meuhedet

Meuhedet 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The third-largest health fund, Kupat Holim Meuhedet, faces sanctions in mid-October by 4,000 of its workers who are protesting against management’s failure to recognize the Histadrut as their representative body.

Management has claimed that the health fund’s works committee, which is run under its auspices rather than independently under the general labor federation, represents the staff.

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Arnon Bar-David, head of the Ma’of organization in the Histadrut, charged that the management’s position “is one of the most disturbing arguments that I have heard in my decades of work as a professional labor unionist.”

He sent a letter on Monday to Meuhedet director-general Dr. Asher Elhayany announcing plans for the sanctions and for opening the collective agreement for negotiations if it does not accept the Histadrut as the workers’ representative.

Meuhedet’s employees have already unionized in the Histadrut and set up their own works committee within the federation.

In February, more than a third of the health fund’s staff joined the Histadrut, making it the official representative of the employees, the labor federation said. It asked the previous senior management, whose members resigned or were dismissed by the Health Ministry as a result of a scandal involving charges of waste and corruption, to enter wage negotiations. However, the Histadrut agreed to wait for the arrival of Elhayany before doing so.

The new director-general, who was previously directorgeneral of Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, refused to recognize the Histadrut as the workers’ representative, the labor federation charged.

Elhayany argued that the inhouse works committee was representing the employees and that management would negotiate with the committee heads.

But the Histadrut charged that the works committee is a “fictitious body comprised of only one person who is part of Meuhedet management and will soon retire. He even told management that he has stopped working for the works committee, the Histadrut charged.

There is “no one else” on the works committee, and there have been no elections for this body for “decades,” it continued. “Membership was forced, not voluntary, and the works committee never signed a collective agreement.”

The Histadrut also charged that “millions of shekels” were collected from health fund staffers and “disappeared over the years” without being accounted for.

A works committee appointed by management has no legal status and cannot be claimed as a representative body, said Bar-David. Such a claim is “infuriating,” as the intention was to prevent the staff from organizing.

Shela Ventura Ashkenazi, head of the “actions committee” of Meuhedet workers in the Histadrut, said that “never have I thought that to obtain the right to organize in my workplace that I love so much would I have to fight management.”

Meuhedet’s management said in a statement that its employers “are our greatest asset to ensure high-quality service to its members and restore the health fund’s status as a leading factor in community medicine. Management is in favor of ongoing discussions with workers and believes that they have the right to organize.”

Meanwhile, the Histadrut said that x-ray workers in government hospitals will on Tuesday halt work between 8 and 10 a.m. to show solidarity with staffers of state hostels for aging Holocaust survivors who work for contractors rather than government employees. The caregivers in three institutions – Pardesiya, Saare Menashe and Beer Ya’acov – have since last week been carrying out partial sanctions, working on an emergency schedule.

The Histadrut has called on prime minister and former health minister Binyamin Netanyahu to get involved and support the struggle of the workers, who are regularly threatened with dismissal when contractors are changed by the Health Ministry and the Treasury.

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