150 emergency calls rejected as social workers strike

Union says negotiations with Treasury will continue in morning; if no solution reached, large rally to take place in capital.

Social workers protest in the North 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Social workers protest in the North 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Almost 150 emergency calls to social services were turned down and countless welfare programs remained closed on Sunday as social workers countrywide started their first full day of strike action after the government refused their demands for a salary increase and improved work conditions.
“All social welfare services were closed on Sunday and we had a 100 percent strike,” said David Golan, spokesman for the Social Workers Union.
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“There were even some social workers from the private sector who joined us and many others called to show support.”
As hundreds of social workers took to the streets in protests in the North and in Beersheba, the Social Workers Union operated a hot line (1- 700-700-331) to deal with emergency cases only. A committee was established with accepting or rejecting cases based on whether they constituted a life or death situation.
“Only in cases where the life of a child or an adult is seriously threatened are we able to help under these strike conditions,” explained Golan, adding that out of 150 calls received on Sunday only four were approved.
Those accepted for receiving social work assistance included a woman whose life had been seriously threatened by a violent husband; she was placed in a battered woman’s shelter.
However, other extreme cases were turned down, including one couple who gave birth to a child with Down’s syndrome. In those types of cases, social workers are usually on hand to advise and support the parents as they come to terms with their newborn baby’s disability.
Negotiations between the social workers and the Treasury have been going on for more than six months, with the social workers asking for a complete overhaul of pay scales and claiming that 27% of new social workers earn the minimum wage and veteran social workers generally earn less than NIS 6,000 a month.
The Finance Ministry, however, disputed that claim, suggesting that the average social worker earns closer to NIS 8,000 a month. The Treasury also outlined an offer that would see social workers benefiting from a NIS 1,000 a month addition to their salaries.
The union has rejected the offer, insisting that the overall structure of pay scales be revised.
Golan said that negotiations between the Treasury and the Social Workers Union would continue on Monday in Tel Aviv, and if no solution was reached by Tuesday, a large demonstration will take place in the capital.
Meanwhile, Minister of Welfare and Social Services Moshe Kahlon spoke about the strike in the weekly cabinet meeting and said attempts were being made to end it as quickly as possible.
He said the ministry was doing its best to address emergency case situations that might arise due to the strike.