In a unanimous ruling, the National Labor Court issued an injunction on Sunday
morning ordering more than 1,000 medical residents who signed letters of
resignation due to come into effect today to report to work as normal in
government hospitals and health clinics without any further interference or
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“Failure to report to work as stated will constitute an
unauthorized abandonment of their jobs by the workers, and will be subject to
the appropriate consequences,” the court ruled.
The judges also called on the Israel Medical Association to exercise its
authority to “continue to do everything possible to facilitate normal and
regular work in the hospitals.”
In the court’s ruling, which spans 42
pages, Labor Court President Nili Arad and Judges Yigal Plitman and Amiram
Rabinovich decided that the resignation letters signed by the residents were
illegal because of their collective nature, and were therefore invalid.
The court also issued an injunction forbidding residents from
taking any further organized action in breach of their collective bargaining
Such collective measures would be considered as participating
in an unauthorized strike, the court ruled.
The panel of judges also
slammed Mirsham, the voluntary organization representing the residents and which
organized the mass resignation campaign.
“All of Mirsham’s actions at
this stage, which are unprecedented in case law, and which include the organized
actions to bring doctors to resign... are contrary to the law and are
prohibited,” the judges said.
The judges noted that Mirsham is not the
official body representing doctors and said the voluntary group’s organization
of the mass resignations was “illegal, undemocratic and fundamentally undermines
labor relations by breaking the rules on which we all depend.”
resignations came after residents objected to the agreement signed between the
IMA and doctors’ employers regarding working conditions, following 158 days of
intermittent doctors’ sanctions that severely disrupted the health system, and
especially the hospitals.
In a statement on Sunday morning, Deputy Health
Minister Ya’acov Litzman welcomed the ruling, calling it an “important decision
that reinforces the collective agreement that was reached, which will streamline
the health system with a preference to the periphery, to the benefit of all
However, Mirsham slammed the ruling in a statement, and talked of an
“unprecedented moral crisis in which thousands of doctors – those who resigned
and those who did not – are crying out that they cannot perform their duties
under the existing public health system.”
Following the court’s ruling,
the majority of residents did eventually show up for work on Sunday, according
to attorney Yaniv Yogev, CEO of Mirsham.
“We told them to go to work, but
if you read the court decision, Mirsham is not allowed to do anything,” he
explained. “They’re really trying to freeze all actions that we’re doing. So we
can’t tell them what to do even if it’s something legitimate – we can’t actually
And while Mirsham representatives admitted they had largely
expected the ruling, they said they remained “disappointed” and were considering
their options for the future. Some such options include asking the High Court of
Justice to overturn the ruling or signing new, individual letters of
resignation, which some residents began to do throughout Sunday.
not organizing it but it’s natural – we know that these guys want to quit,”
Yogev told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “So if they say they can’t do it in an
organized way they’ll do it individually.”
Despite what he felt was a
“harshly worded” court order against his group that was intended “to keep us
quiet,” Yogev said he was still confident in the voluntary organization’s
ability to overturn the ruling in the High Court.
“We believe that the
High Court will reverse the ruling,” he said.
expressed its continued intention to split from the IMA, which is not interested
in championing its members’ interests, according to Yogev.
that the IMA will continue to be against us,” he said. “I believe that the IMA
is run by people whose interests are not the same as ours, and therefore they
will try to keep us quiet and not allow us to protest in any
Eventually we will go our separate ways,” Yogev said.
law expert attorney Asher Heled told the Post that residents’ chances of
overturning the ruling in the High Court were slim.
“The residents can
file a motion in the High Court,” Heled said.
“But the chances of success
are not very good.”
According to Heled, the High Court set a precedent
for ruling on the legality of collective resignation back in 1976.
that case, which concerned the legality of a mass resignation at an electrical
factory, the court ruled that if all workers decided together on an action, then
it could be considered a strike.
“In this case, the residents have one
voice, they have one lawyer and one spokesman. Their list of demands is a
generic list. It all points to the fact that this was a collective action,” said
Heled, who added that he thought the court’s ruling was correct.
also pointed to the new nine-year collective agreement signed by the IMA, the
official workers’ organization representing physicians, according to which no
further doctors’ strikes would be permitted during that
“Collective agreements have considerable power in law,” he
Heled also expressed doubt as to whether the residents would be
able to split from the IMA under the terms of the collective agreement, which
the IMA signed on behalf of the residents.
“Creating a new union is not a
trivial act,” he said.
As they digest the court’s ruling, residents are
assessing their options and deciding what to do next.
Daniel Lantsberg, a
first-year resident at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, expressed his
disappointment with the current situation.
“I think it’s a very sad day
for democracy in Israel. For the first time in our history people are being
forced to go to work in a place from which they chose to be discharged,”
Lantsberg told thePost on Sunday night, during a night shift at the
“We love our profession and we love our job, but each of us by
ourselves have decided that we cannot stay in a system that does not respect us
or our patients.
Unfortunately, the courts have ruled that we cannot quit
Although Lantsberg returned to work on Sunday in accordance
with the court injunction, he continued his personal fight by handing in a new
resignation letter that takes effect in 30 days.
“I personally again have
resigned, again in my own handwriting in hopes that the High Court will rule
that my previous resignation is legal,” he said.
Lantsberg said he
believes that taking the case to the High Court could help the
“We believe that that’s our best option,” he said. “They have
ruled in the past in favor of various rights and this is our right to choose to
be employed and under what terms.”
One other possible avenue for
residents at Tel Hashomer would be a hunger strike, a method that some have
already adopted, but not yet in any organized manner, according to
“We’re still keeping our options open for the future and it’s
definitely a way to go if we see that things are not going our way in the
judicial system,” he said.