Kulanu MK Eli Cohen.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A Kulanu-sponsored bill to introduce occasional three-day weekends had its first ministerial meeting postponed Sunday even as groups continued to fight over the details of the legislation.
Written by Kulanu MK Eli Cohen, the bill was meant to be discussed at the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, but was postponed for a week in part because party leader Moshe Kahlon was out of town and one of Kulanu’s cabinet members, Avi Gabbay, had resigned his post as environmental protection minister.
The bill, however, indicated what approach Cohen would take given pressure from business and labor groups. It called for six three-day weekends a year, in accordance with the wishes of manufacturing groups, but did not demand extra hours to compensate for lost time, as the Histadrut labor federation had wanted.
Earlier versions of the bill envisioned Sundays off every month and a redistribution of lost work hours through the rest of the week.
Over the weekend, a slew of business groups, including the Manufacturers Association of Israel, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, independent workers group Lahav and the Kibbutz Movement, among them, called for the initiative to be rejected.
The groups said it would cost the economy NIS 8 billion a year, though the bill’s supporters say workers would be able to squeeze more productivity out of their remaining work hours. Cohen also argues that a secular day off every other month could be an economic opportunity for all sorts of businesses.
Israel’s productivity – the amount it produces per hour – is among the lowest in the OECD, while the number of weekly work hours, 43, is among the highest.
“This is a dangerous experiment with the Israeli economy,” said MAI President Shraga Brosh, who also said the steps would lead to job losses.
But the FICC, in a separate letter to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, said it supported the initiative under certain circumstances, including broader labor-market reforms; making up lost work hours during the week; and coordinating days off with school holidays.
Just last week, the Histadrut, the country’s largest union, said work weeks should be reduced to 40 hours, and spoke out against the possibility of making regular workdays longer in an attempt to offset extra vacation days.