Plan for subsidizing unpaid leave slammed

Histadrut, employers oppose Treasury's limiting benefits to industrial sector.

Ofer Eini 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ofer Eini 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Finance Ministry's plan to subsidize workers' unpaid leave to avert layoffs was criticized by the Histadrut and employer organizations Tuesday. "We will not be part of Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On's plan for unpaid leave if it only involves the industrial sector and factories and enterprises that employ more than 25 workers," Israel Manufacturers Association president Shraga Brosh, chairman of the Association of Economic Organizations, said Tuesday. "We call upon the finance minister to expand the plan to all sectors of the economy and to businesses employing fewer than 25 workers, since the majority of employees work at small- and medium-sized businesses." Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said a final agreement between the labor union, employers and the Treasury had not yet been forged. "There are a number of differences that still await agreement from all sides," he said Tuesday. According to the Treasury's plan, enterprises would put a limited number of employees on three months' unpaid leave instead of laying them off. During that period, employees would get the same amount they would otherwise receive as unemployment benefits from the National Insurance Institute. The Finance Ministry is prepared to allocate NIS 150 million in an effort to preserve employment in the industrial, planning-services and systems-programming sectors. "The Finance Ministry is only now waking up, following waves of layoffs in recent months, and is trying to implement a plan that is limited to industrial factories and is budgeted with a minimal amount, enough for only a few thousands workers" Brosh said. As the plan now stands, employers will be obliged to pay social benefits, while employees are to use up any vacation days before the leave period. Employers with 25 or more employees will be eligible to place up to 25 percent of their workforce, but not more than 100, on leave at a time, in four three-month shifts during the year. Each worker can be put on leave only once during the year for a period of between one and three months. Employers participating in the program will need to retain at least 75% of the workforce they had in the quarter preceding their application for the program for at least one year from the end of the program. Brosh met Tuesday with Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss the impact of the deepening economic crisis and the wave of layoffs. They agreed to cooperate with the Histadrut to decide on economic measures for dealing with the crisis, saying they would hold a tripartite meeting next week.