Knesset fires cafeteria staff for Pessah break - again

Coffee Shop's owners say the reason for the dismissals was an anticipated sharp decline in demands for food services during the break.

Knesset 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Knesset 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Although the mood in the Knesset immediately before the Pessah break was reminiscent of schoolchildren anticipating a long-awaited vacation, at least some employees in the building weren't celebrating. Around two dozen of the food service employees at the parliament were laid off, a mere two weeks before the upcoming holiday. Coffee Shop, which is the franchise holder that operates all the building's food services, fired around 25 workers as the Knesset went on the inter-session Pessah break. Coffee Shop's owners said the reason for the dismissals was an anticipated sharp decline in demands for food services during the break, when one of the three main cafeterias - the Knesset Members' Dining Room - is closed altogether, and other food services are greatly scaled back. On Sunday, MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) fired off an indignant letter to Knesset Dir.-Gen. Avi Balashnikov, demanding that Balashnikov look into the situation and make sure that workers' rights were not violated. Cohen noted that the company had apparently engaged in a similar practice last year. "I am very sorry that this serious [problem] has come back again," wrote Cohen. "It is the Knesset's responsibility - as an institution that represents the public - to provide a personal example in everything concerning proper administration and workers' rights." Cohen wrote that he learned that in the majority of cases last year, the employees fired during the break were re-hired afterwards. "Instead of receiving their holiday bonus, they get a letter notifying them that they've been fired," he wrote. Not only does this practice mean that the workers are unemployed for a number of months each year, but it also prevents workers from accruing seniority at their place of employment, meaning that they are not entitled to many of the legally mandated benefits that come with that seniority. Cohen added that many employees accept this policy because they are afraid to lose their jobs altogether. In the letter, he demanded that the employees be given set work conditions "in the Knesset cafeteria or in the company's other branches." Last year, as a result of a similar complaint filed by Cohen, many of the workers were employed during the breaks at one of Coffee Shop's other Jerusalem branches. Balashnikov said that he would look in to the matter, and Coffee Shop's owners said that the workers would receive all of the severance benefits to which they were legally entitled.