Three Chinese construction workers barricaded themselves on the top of a crane in Kiryat Ono on Monday, due to a wages dispute with their employer.
They only agreed to come down nine hours later, after a settlement was reached with the aid of the Chinese Consulate.
Five Chinese nationals, who were scheduled to on a flight to China on Monday evening, upon completing a five-year stay in Israel, said the company they worked for, A. Matar Initiating Construction And Development Ltd., failed to reimburse them for work they did on their behalf during August and September. Three of the men climbed the 22-story crane at 7:30 in the morning and refused to come down until they were paid.
According to one of the protesters' colleagues who remained on the ground, the workers had received their salary, but were not reimbursed for work they did on the side, for which they were supposed to be payed in cash.
Throughout the day, the area below the construction site buzzed with activity as police and Magen David Adom crews accompanied by reporters and television cameramen, waited for the ordeal to end.
Also on the scene were inspectors from the Oz Immigration Authority, who were there to make sure that none of the workers were illegal migrants.
The delicate situation didn't stop the work from proceeding and all the while, the sounds of sawing and hammering could be heard from inside the building.
After early attempts to negotiate with the barricaded workers failed to bring about results, the emergency crews left the scene, leaving behind the reporters to wait out the protesters.
In the afternoon, representatives of the Chinese Consulate in Tel Aviv came to try to break the impasse. Though no representatives from the construction company or the contractor who employs the workers were around, the sides were able to reach a deal through the assistance of an Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry of official who was in cellphone contact with the company.
In the end the contractor, who refused to recognize the workers' claims, agreed to give the five workers a "donation" of NIS 4,000 each, which they eventually agreed to accept. The workers received NIS 20,000 in cash and went on their way. The construction company also agreed to come for a meeting at the Chinese Consulate on Tuesday.
Monday's drama was the second such event of the summer. In July, six Chinese workers mounted a 70-meter construction crane in Be'er Ya'acov, south of Rishon Lezion, and refused to come down, in protest over the terms of their employment.
Police were called to the site and began negotiations with the workers to end the standoff. After a few hours, the protesters were talked into descending to safety.
There are tens of thousands of Chinese workers in Israel, most of whom work in the construction sector. In 2005, the government made it mandatory for all foreign workers in the field of construction to be employed through a network of around 40 corporations made up of contractors and building companies. It was hoped this would improve the employment conditions of foreign migrants and reduce their dependence on employment agencies and individual employers.
According to the Hotline for Migrant Workers, the average Chinese laborer who comes to Israel pays $20,000 in commissions to employment agencies in China. The average worker stays for the full term of his permit (five years), and makes an average monthly salary of NIS 4,000. Many work additional hours on the side and receive payment not registered in their pay stubs.