Social workers to protesters: Don’t forget society’s poor

While the middle class struggle is authentic and justified, it is important not to forget the weaker socioeconomic populations.

Sunday's Social Worker's Protest _311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Sunday's Social Worker's Protest _311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Calling the social protests authentic and justified, the Social Workers Union on Sunday called on those leading the battle not to forget about society’s weaker sectors and use their position to help create social rights legislation that will benefit everyone.
“The social protests are authentic, important and justified without a doubt but we hope that they will create real social change in the State of Israel, including legislation that ensures basic social rights for every citizen,” the union, which represents more than 11,000 social workers caring for some of the most poverty stricken families, wrote in a statement sent out to those leading the tent city protests.
According to Social Worker’s Union head Itzhik Perry, if a law protecting social rights was created then the government would not be able to make cutbacks to essential welfare benefits for the poor, which it has been doing in recent years, and could even control the continual increase in the cost of water and basic staples.
Over the past three weeks, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly those considered middle class, have been protesting the high cost of living and rising housing prices in makeshift tent cities around the country.
Although a wide variety of groups have joined in with their specific demands, the overall theme of the protests has been a demand for the government to prioritize social issues. On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared the establishment of a special task force to find a solution to these social protests.
“What we are seeing today is a series of protests that will no doubt bring about social change but it is important that even though the focus right now is on the middle classes, we must not forget the weaker socioeconomic populations in this country too,” said Perry.
He pointed out that thousands of families entitled to public housing have been forced to wait for many years in order to fulfill this right and many more suffer daily from severe poverty.
On Sunday morning, several protesters – who claim they have nowhere else to live – were arrested in Jerusalem outside the offices of Israel’s public housing company, Amidar, as they attempted to raise awareness of their plight.
Less than four months ago, the social workers themselves spent three weeks striking in protest over their own low salaries and lack of resources for working with thousands of needy families and individuals. Even thought they eventually reached an agreement with the Finance Ministry to increase their pay, the union has already warned that they will likely have no choice but to strike again in 2014 when that agreement officially expires.
According to the union, the last poverty report published in November by the National Insurance Institute shows that roughly 20 percent of Israeli citizens lives below the poverty line.
“It is time that we use this wave of protests to make sure that social justice is found for all people in order to improve everyone’s standard of living,” said Perry.
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