'Employees in this country are slaves'

As workers strike to get unpaid wages, the nation comes to a standstill.

November 29, 2006 09:47
2 minute read.
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While hundreds of thousands of people across Israel faced various hardships due to the Histadrut general strike, their plight was hard to compare to that of more than 12,000 local and religious council workers who have not received a single paycheck in months. Muhammad Nasser, a teacher employed by the Arrabe Regional Council and a father of five, has not been paid for the past 12 months. "I am in real distress. I have no other choice but to borrow money from relatives. I feel humiliated every single day," he told Army Radio. "In our family, there is an emphasis on education. Our savings for the kids' higher education no longer exist. It's a daily struggle. Every NIS 5 or 10 matter. I am no longer a provider for my family," he said. "Employees in this country are treated like slaves. I call on [Histadrut Chairman] Ofer Eini to stand strong and not give up. This has to be solved once and for all but there is not a single reliable person in the government." Ahmed Ganaim, head of the workers' union in the Baka al-Gharbiya-Jatt regional council hasn't been paid in 11 months. "There are many promises but nothing is moving. I don't know what the Treasury is talking about; we have been forced to implement a restructuring," he complained. Most of the unpaid local workers are employees of Israeli Arab regional councils. According to Ganaim, "The problem is that most people in this sector are poor and therefore have no money to pay municipal taxes." Baka al-Gharbiya-Jatt Council head Yitzhak Wald said residents in his region owe about NIS 70 million. "True, some of this cannot be collected. But I estimate that about half of this sum can be collected from the residents," he said. Tens of thousands of Israelis were struggling with the effects of the general strike. One woman was scheduled to board a flight to New York on Wednesday morning to visit her two grandchildren, but was forced to return home. "I knew there was a strike, but since I was told to arrive at the airport before 6 a.m., even though my flight was supposed to depart at 7:30, I still had a slight hope that maybe my flight would depart," she told Army Radio. "Many people arrived at the airport this morning. However, we were told to go home and await further instructions. What a mess. "It's too bad for those that are stuck overseas and are unable to come home," she said. "If employees aren't getting paid, this kind of strike is not the answer. It is unacceptable that an entire nation is brought to a standstill," she declared.

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