Authorities take action against foreign worker exploitation

Employment agency shut down for charging Thai agricultural workers excessive commission fees.

FOREIGN WORKERS 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Population, Immigration and Borders Authority (PIBA) announced on Wednesday that it recently revoked the license of an employment agency that brought in workers from Thailand, for severe breach of the employment services law.
A PIBA investigation found that the company, Inter-Man Management Initiatives and Consulting Ltd., had charged excessive commission fees from foreign workers who came to Israel to work in the agriculture sector. The company’s owner claimed that he’s being framed.
In a statement, PIBA stated that “following months of investigations, which included receiving testimonies from the workers and holding hearings for all those involved, it was decided that there was no choice but to cancel the license that was granted to the company.”
PIBA director-general Amnon Ben Ami said that enforcement would be carried out against anyone who broke the law, including Israeli employers who exploit foreign workers.
PIBA spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said that the company’s workers would be transferred to other employment agencies.
PIBA declined to provide additional details, but a recent survey conducted among Thai workers by the Kav La’Oved workers advocacy group found that Inter-Man charged the highest commissions of all employment agencies who provide workers to farmers.
According to the survey, which canvassed 500 foreign workers, Inter-Man charged workers upwards of $10,000 in exchange for the chance to come and work in Israel with a permit. The average commission fee was $9,000. Kav La’Oved director-general Hanna Zohar congratulated PIBA on the move and said she hoped PIBA would continue to enforce the law.
“The phenomenon of employment agencies charging high commission fees is well known. Despite the fact that the law allows them to charge a maximum of $1,000, a majority of the companies charge much more. Inter-Man in particular has been found to be the record holder for the level of commission they charge,” said Zohar.
Inter-Man owner and director, Igor Knopov, said he had appealed PIBA’s decision and that it would be heard in court in early September. Knopov denied the accusations that he had charged excessive fees, claiming that any commission fees that were charged over the permitted amount were charged by the company that recruited the workers in Thailand.
“It is well known that the Thai companies charge excessive amounts, but I have no control over it. I am not in Thailand. The most I can do is switch recruitment firms and we did that nine times in the past six years. The workers don’t differentiate between us and the company that recruited them, so when they are asked who they paid, they say Inter-Man because we are the people they are in contact with here, but the same recruiting company may work with several other Israeli employment agencies,” said Knopov.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Knopov said that the PIBA investigation against his company was a farce and that the inspector who investigated his case had been bribed by his competitors.
“I am the victim of a conspiracy. Other companies, and I won’t mention any names, are jealous of my success. They paid the inspector to have my license revoked. I complained to the police. I complained to his supervisors. I showed them files full of evidence, tape recordings, video footage, but they ignored my complaints. In order to shut me up and drive me out of business, they trumped up these charges,” said Knopov.
“I am an honest broker. You can ask any of the 850 farmers I work with. I don’t even need to charge excessive commission fees because, at the volume I work with, the legal amount is enough for me. You will see. If my company is shut down, a year from now all my clients will be working with those who framed me.”
Hadad said that the facts of the case would be heard in the courtroom and that PIBA would not respond to “ridiculous” claims.