Social workers use Facebook to rally colleagues, public

Move comes as strike looms; "We use site to get out information and dispel rumors. It’s a very useful tool," says union spokesman.

Social workers facebook page 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Social workers facebook page 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As social workers gear up for an open-ended strike set to start Sunday, the union that represents more than 11,000 of them countrywide is gaining emphasis and support for its battle via Facebook.
Set up just over two weeks ago, the Social Workers Struggle 2011 page on the networking site has already gained close to 5,000 followers and is serving as a forum for workers to air their grievances and frustrations, as well as a way to stay updated on the latest news regarding the labor action.
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Talks between the Treasury and the Social Workers Union to increase salaries and improve work conditions broke down on Wednesday afternoon, with the Finance Ministry saying it was doing everything to avert a strike and Social Workers Union Chairman Itzhak Perry claiming that the offers made were “a mockery” and that the union had “no choice but to strike starting on Sunday.”
“We started the Facebook page basically because many of the newer social workers are present on it and because they are the ones that this strike will really help,” commented David Golan, the union’s spokesman and the one responsible for updating the page.
“Of course not all social workers use Facebook but for those that do, it is a tool that allows them to vent and get out their frustration over the situation. We also use it to get out information about the strike and dispel rumors. It’s a very useful tool.”
In addition to the updates and discussions, the page provides links to everything written about the strike action, as well as articles and news clips from the traditional media.
“New media like Facebook is just as important in disseminating a message as the old type of media,” observed Golan, adding that the forum on Facebook would also serve to support social workers during the forthcoming action and afterwards when they have to go back to their employers and demand their rights.
There are roughly 15,000 active social workers in Israel, with 10,000 of them working in the public sector and a further 5,000 in the private sector. Even though most social workers have academic degrees, the base pay for a new social worker in the public sector 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. Golan pointed out that social workers in the private sector earn even less.
Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center Prof. Tal Samuel Azran, an expert in new media, said the creation of such a page on Facebook “once again shows how strong social networks and citizen journalism can be.
“[Social workers] have been quiet for so long – similar to the people in Egypt – and that can create an explosion among the people,” he said.
“They are a group that never had the chance to unite and collaborate before and social media is giving them this opportunity. I believe it will inspire other groups, such as the nurses, that do not have the privilege to strike, to take action.”