General strike averted with deal to improve construction site safety

Three workmen fell as scaffolding collapsed at construction site.

Construction site in Petah Tikva where scaffolding collapsed on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (Fire and Rescue Services)
An agreement was struck late Tuesday night to avert a general strike that was set to begin Wednesday. The joint announcement was made by the Finance Ministry, the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Histadrut labor federation.
Poor safety standards at construction sites were at the heart of the intended strike. The Finance Ministry agreed to allow dozens of supervisor positions to be added to the Workplace Safety Administration.
Other points in the agreement included introducing European standards for scaffolding, monitoring workers who do not exceed the permitted number of work hours, increased safety precautions for construction from heights, and advancements for the regulation of cranes.
Last Thursday, Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn announced the planned strike at an emergency meeting in Tel Aviv as frustration continued to grow over perceived government failures to tackle the rising death and injury toll at construction sites.
Nissenkorn said: “This is the right and moral thing that should have been done long ago. I welcome the fact that in the end the state recognized its obligation and responsibility to regulate the matter. Thanks to the struggle, we succeeded in finding real solutions to improve safety in the workplace and in the construction industry in particular, without one day of strike in the economy.”
“The agreements are only the beginning of the process on the way to changing the reality, but it is now clear to everyone that the historic move will prevent many fatal accidents in the workplace and will prevent the injury and death of dozens of workers every year,” he continued. “It should be emphasized that the responsibility that accompanies safety in the construction industry is also shared by contractors and employees who play a central role in adhering to the required safety standards,” Nissenkorn said.
Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Haim Katz said: “I welcome the efforts of my partners in the fight against work accidents. The goal is for workers to come to work, to earn a living in dignity and to return home safely. When I received the authorities in the field of safety two years ago, I found years of neglect, and with the tools available to me I began to work to create deterrence [of violation of these laws] through legislation and upgrade meager manpower in the Ministry. I believe that the joint commitment will create a significant change in the safety of the construction industry.”
The latest in a series of construction site accidents occurred on Tuesday in Petah Tikva. Three construction site workers fell when scaffolding collapsed from a height of 12 meters, at a building site on Weizmann Street in Petah Tikva.
The workers managed to exit the site before emergency services arrived. Five teams of firefighters conducted a search for a fourth man, but it later transpired that no additional workmen had been caught up in the incident. No injuries were reported.
A total of 37 construction workers have died and 191 have been injured – 38 of those seriously – so far this year, according to data compiled by the NGO Workers Hotline. In 2017, 35 construction workers died and 264 were injured.
Eytan Halon contribute to this report.