Port to Workers: Shabbos a Day Off Only With Note From Rabbi

YERUSHALAYIM -
Shipping containers at the Haifa Port. (Shay Levy/Flash90 )
Shipping containers at Haifa Port. (Shay Levy/Flash90 )

Shabbat Equality, a group of businesspeople dedicated to enabling all those who wish to take off Shabbos without being penalized by employers or competitors, is offering free legal help to individuals who are being forced to work on Shabbos, either outright by employers or because of commercial pressure.

The latest case, according to the group, involves workers at Haifa Port who were being required to work on Shabbos – unless they brought a note from their Rabbi attesting to their observance. “Unless you work on Shabbos, you will never advance in this organization,” one worker was quoted as saying, adding that he was forced to attest to his observance and bring a letter from his Rabbi confirming it. A new version of the declaration also requires workers to declare that they eat strictly kosher and conduct a regular religious lifestyle if they want to be considered for a Shabbos exemption.

In a statement, the Transport Ministry said that forcing workers to sign declarations in order to get Shabbos off was unacceptable. “Based on the information we received about this matter, the minister will discuss the matter with Haifa Port management.”

The Shabbat Equality group said that the declaration requirement was “another in the growing number of Israeli companies and organizations in which the day of rest is denied to workers, and Shabbos is turned into a weekday. This policy is designed to maximize profits on the backs of workers,” the group said, adding that it was preparing a lawsuit against Haifa Port on the matter.