Court halts eviction of workers

Stops government's expulsion of 3,000 Chinese construction workers.

By RON FRIEDMAN
June 24, 2010 18:22
2 minute read.
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construction tel aviv 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The Jerusalem District Court for Administrative Matters ordered, on Thursday, a temporary injunction on the state’s decision to expel 3,000 foreign construction workers by the end of June.

The petition filed by the employees claims that the expulsion violated agreements between the state and the workers, 99 percent of whom are Chinese nationals, who had come to Israel assuming that they would be allowed to stay and work for the duration of their permit, roughly five years.

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Earlier this week the Contractors Association joined the injunction request, claiming that the expulsion of 3000 workers would cause harm to its members who would be unable to complete projects due to lack of workers.

The temporary injunction will be in place until July first, when the court will hold proceedings on the legality of the government decision.

The government decision to reduce the number of foreign workers in the construction sector from 8,000 to 5,000 is part of its overall plan to end the employment of foreign workers in Israel altogether, a plan that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Shteinitz, have characterized as essential for the Israeli economy. The plan calls for a gradual reduction of foreign workers by the end of 2012 and Israel stopped importing new workers in 2009.

On the basis of this plan, 3000 foreign workers who renewed their work visas in 2010, discovered that the visas were set to expire on June 30th instead of at the end of the year. The remaining 5000 workers’ visas expire in December.

According to Dana Shaked, Chinese workers coordinator at Kav L’Oved, foreign workers explained that those who had been in Israel upwards of three years were given visas until June, while the others had been given full year visas.



Shaked said that workers who come from China pay upwards of $30,000 for a permit to work in Israel. “It takes them two years just to pay off the loans they took out to finance the permits. They depend on their license to work here for the full five year duration of their permit for their livelihood,” said Shaked. “Nobody told them that they might have to leave before their permits were up.”

The contractors claim that Israelis are simply unwilling to perform the tasks currently done by foreign workers, despite their efforts to train and hire them.

In an interview for Globes, Ronen Ginsburg, director general of Danya Cebus, a large construction firm, said “Unfortunately there has yet to be invented a technological solution to replace laborers in construction jobs like molding, plastering, metalwork and flooring. It’s super-duper hard work. flooring demands that workers spend up to 12 hours a day on their knees, sometimes in temperatures that exceed 40 degrees. Israelis refuse to do it. They’re spoilt. They prefer to work in the hi-tech sector or in management.”

The spokeswoman for the Ministry of Interior’s Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, the agency charged with executing the expulsion, said that the expulsion was a government decision and that the authority would act in accordance to what the government decided.

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