NGO: 45% workers will go unpaid during holiday season

Nearly half of the county’s workforce will not receive a full salary during the upcoming holidays because they do not receive a global monthly salary.

September 22, 2011 22:14
3 minute read.
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Nearly half of the county’s workforce will not receive a full salary during the upcoming national holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and the week of Succot because they are paid for their work by the hour, and do not receive a global monthly salary, according to estimates by labor rights organization Kav Laoved (Workers Hotline).

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, less than a week before the Jewish holiday season begins, the organization’s Hanna Zohar said that Israel had seen a sharp increase in workers being paid per hour over the last few years.

Whereas the phenomenon was once reserved for a few part-time workers or temporary laborers today, many people actually work full-time and spend many years at the same place of employment, she said.

“We estimate that it’s 45 percent of the workforce, but believe it is much more than that because the number is growing all the time,” said Zohar, of the practice which likely affects more than one million people working in this country. Most of them earn minimum wage.

The hotline believes that this past summer’s wave of mass social protests, which drew hundreds of thousands of supporters from across the country demanding social justice and improved economic conditions, has lead to an increase in the number of people turning to the organization to help them fight for improved work conditions and better pay.

Zohar explained that with this particular issue, a worker who is paid by the hour simply does not receive a full salary when their employer closes down the business for the holidays. This also includes working less hours the day before the holiday and halfdays during the week of non-High Holy Days (hol hamoed Succot).

While the law states those employees who work the day before and the day after a holiday should be paid for the actual holiday in between, in order to avoid this, some employers simply close the business completely on those days, she said.

While in the past hourly workers might have been less permanent and could find an alternative temporary job to supplement their pay, as they increasingly become full-time at one place of employment this is now impossible, said Zohar, outlining that this practice affects those in blue-collar jobs such as guarding, cleaning and construction, as well as cellphone company and the hi-tech sector employees.

“People who get paid a global monthly salary will not work over the holidays, but are still likely to see their full salary at the end of the month,” she said giving the example of government employees who do not work throughout the week of Succot, but are still paid with combination of vacation days owing to them by law.

Zohar, who noted that the practice “pays for the employers but not the employee,” said that Kav Laoved has been attempting to raise the issue and push forward legislation on the matter for the past few years.

“There is such indifference to this issue and yet we are all surprised when we hear there are more and more working poor,” she said.

Among the solutions put forward by the NGO are to ensure that people who are paid by the hour do not work more than 60% of the time and those earning minimum wage, who get paid per hour, automatically have 10% added to their salary.

While Kav Laoved plans to renew its campaign for better legislation to protect the rights of these workers, those behind this summer’s tent protests declared Thursday that they were preparing for a new phase in the socioeconomic battle.

As part of the on-going fight, student organizations and others involved in the protests will hold what they are calling the first-ever “Social Congress” this Friday at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

“The first Social Congress will provide all citizens of this country with the tools to make their voices heard,” said one of the protest leaders Daphni Leef in a statement.

“Citizens of Israel call on the prime minister to establish a new social budget for 2012.”

The government-appointed Trajtenberg Committee, which has been tasked with finding comprehensive solutions to the increasing public dissatisfaction over the cost of living in this country, is expected to submit its recommendations on Monday.

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