As job losses increase, employment bureaus close

Union demands more workers, saying staff can't handle pressure of so many unemployed.

Employment Service strike 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Employment Service strike 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day after the National Employment Service reported that 19,719 Israelis lost their jobs in January and 20,000 more could be fired this month, employment bureaus across the country shut down, with the workers' union saying staffers could not handle the growing number of job-seekers. The Finance Ministry on Wednesday refused the union's demand to add staff. The Jerusalem employment bureau, situated on the fifth floor of the central bus station building, was nearly empty on Wednesday morning. Notices hung at the entrance to the building and on the commercial floors informed the public that the offices were closed to the public. "I heard on the radio that they are on strike, but I thought I better check it out myself because I was in the neighborhood anyway," said one woman who refused to give her name. She said she was looking to join a training program, not seeking a new job. "I had a business of my own, but I had to close it down," she said. "Now that I am unemployed and I have no profession, I thought it's best I acquire professional knowledge in something." Yishai Fried, 35, from Jerusalem, who left a job in hi-tech six months ago and who started to file for income support six weeks ago, said he was optimistic. "I left the company where I had worked for many years because I had enough of it and I needed a change and some time off," Fried said. "I don't regret it, I have already started looking and I believe it's going to be okay." Avraham Levy, 60, has been unemployed for a few years now. He used to work as a security guard but now he has given up the job hunt. "I have reached the age where no one wants to hire you, so I come here once a month to file for income support and I get NIS 1,200 a month," he said. A meticulously dressed Russian woman in her 40s who arrived at the closed offices seemed angry. She refused to speak to a reporter, and only asked whether the strike included all unemployed, or perhaps unemployed "academics" (those with college degrees) were being seen. They were not. The only people who allowed in the offices on Wednesday morning were the cleaning ladies, but even one of them looked worried. "I work, but my husband doesn't and he was supposed to come here today to get his income support but there is no one here," she mumbled. "I don't know what we can do." Ben Dabach, 28, who closed his small business and filed for income support for the first time six weeks ago, said he was not concerned about the future. "I am optimistic but not because of the country but because of myself," he said. "As you see, they are never around when they are needed and they go home when it's too busy for them," he added. Aharon Hotobely, chairman of the workers committee, said the pressure on the employment bureaus was getting worse, as the waves of layoffs continue and the recession deepens. "We have reached a point where one clerk sees 200 unemployed people a day, and we cannot handle the load," Hotobely said. "The pressure leads to physical and verbal violence. "Under the current conditions we can't give reasonable and appropriate service, because we simply don't have enough manpower," he said.