Histadrut Threatens National Strike Over Worker Safety

Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Histadrut Labor Union has declared an official “work dispute” that includes all unionized workers in the Israeli economy. According to Israeli labor laws, a work dispute is declared in advance of a strike. The declaration of a work dispute sets off a two-week period in which negotiations between the union and management takes place. If the issues are not resolved, a strike can be called.

“Management” in this case is the government, and the issue behind the potential strike is not money, but job safety. According to the Histadrut, “there is an ongoing phenomenon of a lack of enforcement of safety laws and issues throughout the Israeli economy,” which has resulted in relatively high levels of deaths and injuries among workers.

“The problem is especially acute in the building trades; in 2018 so far, 31 people have been killed in construction accidents, while more than 100 have been badly injured.

Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn said in a statement that he had already declared his intention to announce a work dispute over the safety issue months ago. According to the statement, he has attempted to discuss the matter with various government ministries, but decided to move ahead with the labor action after failing to get a response.

“Something must be done to reduce the numbers of dead and injured among workers,” Nissenkorn said in the statement. “This cannot continue. This is a national problem and we must take immediate steps to end the dangers to workers on the job and restore safety standards. Our conception of the value of human life is at odds with the lackadaisical attitude we have about worker safety. The numbers are unacceptable, and more and more workers are victims of situations where their deaths could have been prevented. Unfortunately the state continues to act as if it doesn’t care,” he added.