More than 3,000 Clalit Health Services clinic nurses will begin an open-ended strike on Tuesday morning.
The Clalit workers union, representing 32,000 nurses, administrative and maintenance staff and technical workers, said the walkout will "completely shut down" all the clinics and is a "first shot in the struggle to replace management."
It will be the first time in 20 years that the health fund's community nurses strike.
Last week, the union declared a work dispute and demanded the removal of the health fund's management. Union chief Prosper Ben-Hamu claimed that the management of the country's largest health fund has been "violating the rights of the workers for months" and causing the loss of 45,000 members each year.
Clalit is "selling off property on an ongoing basis with the aim of transferring services from health fund workers to contractors and other outside suppliers to cause permanent workers to leave and many dismissals."
Ben-Hamu charged that there was a manpower shortage throughout the health fund, with about 1,000 job slots unmanned. For example, there is a shortage of 300 nurses in Clalit hospitals, 200 nurses in community health fund clinics, 400 administrative workers and 100 pharmacists. He further claimed that management refused to even discuss working conditions and wages of paramedical workers and that lab workers were being forced to change their working conditions and habits against their will. "All this is not certain to benefit members of the health fund," Ben-Hamu said.
The union also charges that management has refused to take on hundreds of cleaning workers who were forced to work as manpower agency staffers and "whose rights have been trampled." After making a profit for some time, eight months ago Clalit went into the red and has since lost NIS 150 million, according to the union.
Asked to comment, Clalit management said that the union "has again chosen to spread distorted information. The current management has brought the health fund, for the first time in its history and two years in a row, to a balanced budget without firing even one permanent staffer. It will continue to make every effort to protect this achievement while continuing to invest in services and infrastructure in its hospitals and clinics."
The management spokesman added that Clalit was the first organization in Israel to sign an agreement with the Histadrut ensuring protection of the rights of those who work for contractors. "In long negotiations with the union, agreement was reached on most topics. Management calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately and to discuss all remaining issues," the spokesman said.
Clalit management told The Jerusalem Post that it plans to ask the National Labor Court to act to "halt or prevent" the declared strike, which it called "irresponsible."
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