Social workers’ strike enters 3rd day with no end in sight

Demonstrations to take place on Int'l Women's Day with over 5,000 workers expected to show up; 89% of social workers are women.

March 8, 2011 00:51
3 minute read.
Social workers at a demonstration

Social workers demonstration 311 . (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The social workers’ strike seemed likely to continue into its third day Tuesday after negotiations between the Social Workers Union, the Histadrut labor federation and the Treasury on Monday yielded no results.

A spokesman for the Social Workers Union said a mass demonstration was planned for Tuesday opposite the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem to protest its refusal to meet their demands, which include an increase in salaries, an overhaul of the current pay scales and an improvement in work conditions.

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“The demonstration takes place on International Women’s Day, and more than 5,000 social workers are expected to turn up,” he said, adding that 89 percent of social workers were women.

A statement released by the Histadrut on Monday said that the main sticking point in the negotiations was ensuring that some 5,000 social workers currently employed in the private sector would also be part of the deal.

“It is not fair that a public employee will receive a pay increase, but a social worker employed by a charity will not, just because the state decides to privatize its welfare system,” a union representative involved in the negotiations said.

Roughly 10,000 social workers are employed in the public sector and, according to the union, 27% of them earn the minimum wage.

An additional 5,000 social workers are employed by nonprofit organizations that often work for the government as part of privatization schemes; their salaries are even lower, a union spokesman said.

On Saturday night, the Finance Ministry released a statement discounting the social workers’ claims that their average salary was less than NIS 6,000 a month, suggesting rather that the average monthly income was closer to NIS 8,000. It also outlined an offer to bump up salaries by roughly NIS 1,000 a month.

“I have been a social worker for 20 years and my base salary is NIS 4,200,” one of the striking social workers said Monday. “Sometimes I volunteer to be on emergency call and work on weekends or in the evenings, and then I get a bonus of a few hundred shekels, but it really depends on the extra work I do.”

Preferring to remain nameless, the social worker added that less experienced social workers did not always have the option to work overtime.

She said she suspected social workers employed by certain government offices, such as the National Insurance Institute or the Defense Ministry, might earn a higher wage, and this could be what the Treasury is referring to.

“I feel terrible about striking,” said the social worker. “Before I left [to go on strike] I had a few emergency cases and it is very hard to not be following them. There is one elderly lady who was in hospital and there is no one there to make sure she gets the care she needs. It is possible that the hospital will send her home and not even check that she has the help she needs there.”

The Social Workers Union has been operating a hot line (1-700- 700-331) to deal with emergency cases only, and a specially appointed committee has been tasked with accepting or rejecting cases based on whether they constitute a life-or-death situation.

The union’s spokesman said that on Monday it had received 130 calls, but social workers were permitted to respond to only four of them.

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