Unionized waiters secure precedential agreement

Israel's first ever waiters' collective agreement signed by coffee chain; will receive 10% of profits, grants, benefits.

A coffee shop chain signed Israel's first ever collective agreement between caterer and waiters, ending over a month of strike, demonstrations and negotiations. The agreement, mediated by the Histadrut, which originally unionized the workers of one branch of the "Coffe Bean and Tea Leaf", is far reaching and promises considerable benefits to the workers of the company, if they also join the workers federation. According to the deal, unionized employees of the chain will receive 10% of the company's profits. A worker who will complete a year in the chain will receive a "diligence grant", to the sum of 50 to 100 per cent of a regular monthly wage. All health benefits and travel expenses will be paid in adherence to existing legislation, including hired transportation and paid-for cabs for employees traveling from and to work outside the hours of regular public transport. Employees will also enjoy one meal per shift at the complementary price of NIS 5, and will receive 100% of tips left by customers. The phenomenon of employers confiscating and redistributing tip money is widespread in Israel, with some businesses even relying on the tips to provide the worker his minimum wage. The deal came after over a year of conflict between the administration and the workers. Alon Lee Grin, a waiter at the Ibn Gabirol branch of the chain, set up a workers union in his outlet in 2007 and had his coworkers join the Histadrut. He was promptly fired by his manager, and had to be reinstated by an order of the court. In January 2008, Grin and the delegates of the union announced a working conflict with the chain, leading to picket lines outside the contentious branch. They said the chain was violating their various rights, including a confiscation of their tip money. The picket lines caused considerable damage to the chain, as demonstrators persuaded customers to avoid the branch in solidarity with the workers. A similar tactic secured a precedentary agreement to an independent waiters union at another Tel Aviv coffee shop last year.