Social workers to hold protest in TA

The rally will attempt to raise public awareness to pay increase demands, better work conditions, highlight importance of social work.

February 25, 2011 02:32
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Hundreds of social workers are expected to march through Tel Aviv Friday morning in an attempt to raise public awareness to their demands for a pay increase and better work conditions, and highlight the importance of the work they do, it was announced Thursday.

Organized by the official social workers rights movement Atidenu (Our Future), the demonstration will kick off at Habima Theater and continue along the main Rothschild Boulevard, with social workers handing out flyers and speaking with the public about why their demand for higher pay and better resources is justified.

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“We don’t know where the Social Workers Union stands right now in terms of declaring an all-out strike, but we want to express to the public and the government that we, the social workers, are inflamed and we are ready and willing to launch a strike in order to improve our conditions,” Inbal Hermoni, spokeswoman of Atidenu and a social worker herself, told the Post in an interview.

“Being a social worker is a lot of responsibility and is a very important job, but the majority of us earn less than the average wage of NIS 8,300 a month,” she continued.

According to Hermoni, even though most social workers have academic degrees, the base pay for a new social worker is no more than NIS 2,300, with income support and other fiscal benefits bumping it up slightly. After two or three years in the trade, social workers can usually expect to earn no more than NIS 6,000 a month, she said.

“We are talking about educated people with academic degrees who go out and help all segments of the population – pre-schoolers, children, youth, adults and the elderly,” continued Hermoni, adding that the call for a labor dispute was also related to a lack of resources and poor work conditions.

“Every citizen in Israel has the right to turn to social welfare services, but the situation today means there is simply not enough manpower to take on every case,” she said.

“Every social worker has between 100 and 500 case files, and they do it all on the equivalent of a part-time salary.”

Social Workers Union spokesman David Golan told the Post Thursday that the two-week incubation period for declaring a labor dispute had now passed, and depending on the outcome of talks taking place with the Treasury on Thursday, the union was within its rights to announce a strike whenever it saw fit.

“Of course we do not want to strike; we want the Finance Ministry to increase the pay scale for social workers,” he said, adding that “talks held Wednesday made some progress on certain issues, but there is still a sharp disagreement on how much to increase the salaries, and we now have the right to call for strike action if we need to.”

Golan explained that the standard pay scale for social workers had not been formally adjusted since 1976.

“I deeply admire this country’s social workers, who work night and day for others in distress, taking on the extraordinary burden of the weaker populations,” recently inaugurated Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon told the Post on Thursday.

“But unfortunately, the rewards are very low and clearly unreasonable for these welfare warriors, and I truly believe that this situation requires an immediate change,” he went on. “Therefore, I completely support them in reaching an agreement that will improve the financial and work conditions of all social workers out in the field.”

He added, “Since taking over as minister, I have been monitoring the subject closely and have held meetings with Social Workers Union chairman Itzik Perry and representatives of the Histadrut labor federation, in a genuine desire to bring an end to this crisis as quickly as possible.”

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