Social workers demand that PM intervene in strike

Union head: Social workers are overloaded and not able to operate at acceptable work levels.

social worker protest 88 (photo credit: )
social worker protest 88
(photo credit: )
The Social Workers Union called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Wednesday to help resolve its dispute with the Treasury and the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services over severe shortages in manpower. On Sunday, the union began a full-blown strike. "Social workers are overloaded and not able to operate at acceptable work levels," union head Yitzhak Perry said in a letter to Olmert. After two-and-a-half months of sanctions it's time for Prime Minister Olmert to step in," Perry said, adding that "when a social worker can offer only five minutes a week to each person it stops being 'treatment'" The union, which represents some 7,000 social workers, says that its members have caseloads of 200-400 clients each. For more than two months, social workers have been refusing to accept new clients, assign foster homes for children at risk, distribute essential equipment to the elderly or submit recommendations in custody disputes. A representative of the prime minister said that his office would respond directly to the union. Also on Wednesday, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services announced the launch of a project to address the lack of resources faced by many of the country's social welfare departments, which will see the distribution of hundreds of computers. A study initiated three months ago by the minister, Isaac Herzog, found that one in eight social workers does not have access to a computer. "It is about time that social welfare services are brought up to date," Herzog said. "This project will address a well-known problem faced by social workers all over the country and will significantly improve their resources." More than NIS 5 million will be spent on the project over the next two years, increasing the number of computers by 400 percent. A spokeswoman for Herzog said the computer project was not connected to the strike and was only aimed at improving services and work conditions for social workers. The Social Workers Union welcomed the initiative, telling The Jerusalem Post: "There are so many resources lacking for our people out in the field, we are just happy that one area has been addressed. It gives us hope that our overall battle will be successful."