Knesset's long weekend proposal hits snag

The proposal, which would have given workers six long weekends a year, has been blocked.

Kulanu MK Eli Cohen (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Kulanu MK Eli Cohen
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A proposal to initiate six long weekends a year on the way to eliminating Sundays from the Israeli workweek has hit a roadblock, sources close to Economy Minister Eli Cohen told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Cohen, from Kulanu, proposed the bill before he became a minister, and it was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in June 2016. Cohen’s proposal was for the long weekends – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – to begin by the end of 2017.
But the proposal’s advancement is being blocked by three strong forces.
Manufacturers Association of Israel president Shraga Brosh warned of high costs for the economy, which he estimated at NIS 8 billion a year, or 1% of GDP.
Brosh has joined forces with Histadrut labor federation chief Avi Nissenkorn, who prefers a different proposal to shorten every workweek by one hour, from 43 to 42.
Labor and Social Services Minister Haim Katz (Likud) supports Nissenkorn’s plan and not Cohen’s.
“The deal to shorten the workweek by an hour improves the lives of the workers, with proper balance between work and leisure,” Brosh told the Public Broadcasting Corporation Kan.
Katz’s office said he would support any plan to shorten the workweek and that long weekends were still being considered in consultations with the industrialists and the Histadrut.
The Bank of Israel, Education Ministry and the National Economic Council oppose the proposal for long weekends.
When the Knesset comes back from its extended summer recess in October, Cohen’s proposal and Nissenkorn’s will both be brought to the Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, which is headed by Kulanu MK Eli Alalouf, who is an ally of Cohen.
Sources close to Cohen said that while that could give his bill an advantage, coalition politics will be considered, and the Likud runs the government. The sources said it was not possible to pass both proposals, because they would shorten the workweek in different ways.
Cohen’s office said he would continue fighting for long weekends and try to pass his legislation.
“Moving to a long weekend will dramatically change the characteristics of labor,” Cohen said. “It has many benefits, including reducing exhaustion of workers, improving the balance between work and family life, improving quality of life, contributing to economic branches like trade and tourism, and synchronizing vacation days between schoolchildren and their parents.”
Lahav Harkov and Niv Elis contributed to this report.