Contract worker: Today’s strike was just the beginning

Battle for workers' rights not over, says contract social worker; follows 4 hour strike that shut down public transport, international flights, health services.

Histadrut strike mess 465 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Histadrut strike mess 465
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Monday’s four-hour strike that shut down public transport, international flights, health, welfare, educational services and more is just the start of the battle to end the growing trend of contract workers, said social workers employed through non-profit welfare organizations to provide services in the public sector.
“The strike brought this issue to the public consciousness, but it was not enough, and we see this as only the beginning of the battle,” said “Karen,” a contract social worker, who requested anonymity, from the Atidenu movement.
Karen, a social worker for youth, has the same tasks and responsibility as other social workers employed by her local municipality but does not receive the same benefits or status as them.
“It is a form of modern-day slavery,” she said, adding that it was time for the government to end this phenomenon as much as possible. “I am a proud Israeli and I really want to believe that the state wants to take care of its citizens as much as possible.”
Karen, who did not work Monday morning in protest and solidarity with other contract workers, said the situation had become intolerable.
“There are so many people in this situation,” she said.
“They work for the municipality, either in the welfare or education departments, they work the same hours, sit in the same offices but there is a huge discrepancy in their conditions.”
Karen described how, as a contract employee, she is not allowed to join the workers committee, and twice a year when others around her receive a one-time gift for the Jewish holidays, she receives nothing.
“It is the basic privilege of a worker who gives their heart to their job to be rewarded with a holiday bonus, but I don’t get anything,” said the social worker, who works full time for around NIS 5000 a month.
Regev also said that because of her status, any experience she accumulates does not transfer to another place of employment.
“I have a job now but if I leave, I will have nothing – not even the experience I have gained,” she said.
Regev also spoke about the strides made earlier this year by public-sector social workers who were on strike for three weeks. During the negotiations there were some demands for contract social workers like Regev, but in the final outcome they were locked out of the agreement.
“They got a one-time gift of NIS 200 and the chance to have their salaries increased in stages over the next four years. We got nothing,” she lamented, adding that it was only thanks to the goodwill of the municipality she was afforded some of the social benefits.
Karen, who has been working in social services for the past year and a half since graduating university, said the increasing privatization is symptomatic of a government that refuses to take responsibility for its workers.
“The government puts out a lottery and then just gives a financial allocation to the organization that wins,” she said, adding that out of those who graduated alongside her with a social-work degree no one has found fully-fledged government positions.
“Over the past few years, the government has privatized more and more services and the results are what we are seeing today,” observed Karen. “At the beginning it was just cleaners and security personnel – the invisible workers – but now, more and more it is health, welfare and educational professionals and the government cannot hide from them for much longer.”
According to previous information from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs roughly 80 percent of social services in Israel are today contracted out by the government to non-profit agencies or private entities.
While many provide specialized services, there is little official supervision on how they treat their employees.