Scheduled farmers' strike gains momentum

Wholesale markets and regional authority heads join fight to allow in additional foreign workers for the agriculture sector.

vegetables 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
vegetables 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The farmers’ strike scheduled to begin on Monday over the government’s refusal to allow in additional foreign workers for the agriculture sector is gaining momentum.
On Wednesday, the farmers recruited the wholesale markets and regional authority heads to their cause, which will lead to a complete freeze in the marketing of agricultural products unless a solution is found in time.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Israel Farmers Federation secretary- general Avshalom Vilan said that the wholesalers and the regional council heads were joining the farmers out of solidarity.
“The government has failed to honor agreements signed with the farmers, and we have no option but to strike,” said Vilan.
The farmers are demanding that the government honor obligations it made to the farmers last May, which would regulate the number of foreign laborers working in the sector. The farmers claim they are short 4,500 workers and that their absence causes irrevocable damages to the sector.
“We tried to design the protest so that it will cause a minimal amount of harm to the public and still have the desired effect of pressuring the government into action. On the days of the strike [Monday to Thursday], we will have activists out on the roads and at main junctions handing out produce and explaining our cause,” said Vilan.
Vilan said that gaining the cooperation of the wholesalers was an important development because it showed that the entire delivery chain had been recruited to the cause.
The wholesale markets – the biggest one is located in Tzrifin, near Rishon Lezion – are where all the supermarket chains, grocers and restaurants go to purchase fresh produce. Their closure for three days means that there will be no sale of fresh agricultural produce, including fruits and vegetables, eggs, flowers, chicken and milk.
Vilan said the government was incapable of reaching or honoring a decision on foreign workers and that they were tangled in legal and bureaucratic issues.
He added that the farmers would also take advantage of the strike to protest the government’s reducing their water quotas.
Last week, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon briefly raised the idea of allowing Palestinian workers into Israel for work on the farms. When asked if that would be acceptable to the farmers, Vilan said the farmers were willing to take any workers they could get, but that the military was refusing to allow Palestinians in, and had failed to meet with the farmers’ representatives even to discuss the possibility.