Parties vie for support of self-employed workers

Blue and White number two Yair Lapid unveiled the party's "Self-Employed Charter," a 12-point list of commitments to assist the development and boost self-employed workers.

September 4, 2019 09:29
3 minute read.
Parties vie for support of self-employed workers

Eli Cohen and Yair Lapid speak at a conference organized by Lahav, the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses.. (photo credit: EYTAN HALON)

Knesset candidates from across the political spectrum vied for the support of the country’s masses of self-employed workers and small and medium-sized businesses on Tuesday in Tel Aviv.

Just two weeks before Israelis return to the polls for the second time this year, candidates addressed representatives of the country’s 450,000 independent business owners who employ more than 1,000,000 salaried staff.

The highly-charged conference was organized by Lahav, the Israel Chamber of Independent Organizations and Businesses, an umbrella organization which promotes the interests of self-employed workers and the small and medium-sized business sector. The sector represents 99% of all businesses and employers in the country.

“It’s the season of promises before the elections, but every promise that we made was executed,” said Economy Minister Eli Cohen. “During the last Knesset, the door always was open to workers’ representatives when there was an issue. Every decision taken was taken together with you.”

Faced with an audience of both noisy supporters and vocal opponents, Cohen highlighted reforms made during his term as minister, including changes made to pensions for self-employed workers, to small business tax rates, to business registration requirements and to reduce bureaucracy.

Blue and White number two Yair Lapid unveiled the party’s “Self-Employed Charter,” a 12-point list of commitments to assist the development of small firms and boost self-employed workers.

“The time has come for a governing party that is committed to the self-employed, not one that remembers them at the last moment prior to elections,” said Lapid, who served as finance minister from March 2013 to December 2014. “We will be the ruling party that will fight unnecessary regulation and excessive rent, and that will give sick pay and unemployment pay to the self-employed.”

Lapid also highlighted three legislative proposals advanced by Yesh Atid to support self-employed workers, which were all defeated in the Knesset under the last government.

“When they say that you’re the heart of the country’s economic growth engine, remind them that they voted down the draft legislation to help you,” said Lapid.

Likud MK Nir Barkat highlighted both his experiences as a successful entrepreneur and mayor of Jerusalem to express his understanding of problems faced by small and medium-sized business owners.

“The rule is to study and adopt success stories – how do they do business in the United States and Europe?” said Barkat, urging business owners to see him as a partner in the Knesset.
“So long as we adopt international standards, if we look and learn from successful case studies, that is how we’ll succeed,” he added. “I understand your challenges well because I was on your side. I dealt with them as a businessman, then as a mayor who understood the importance of promoting business, and I now intend to deal with it on the macro and micro level.”
In an impassioned speech, Gesher leader Orly Levy-Abecassis accused other parties of attempting to dismantle associations representing self-employed workers and small and medium-sized businesses.

“Their efforts are so that you won’t have the power to negotiate. You are a big group but they say it’s good for them if this big group is disorganized. If there’s no group power, they won’t need to listen,” she said.

“Many politicians will make you promises, and many had the opportunity to fix the problems. What did they do? How did they advance small and medium-sized businesses? I can promise you something – give us the opportunity and see that we keep our word.”

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