The Histadrut Labor Union has not forgotten that it declared a labor dispute regarding worker safety, and in an interview with Globes, Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn promised that the union would follow up with its threat. “If there is not a breakthrough in the immediate future on the worker safety issue, we will be going on strike at the beginning of November.”
According to Israeli labor laws, a work dispute must be 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.
“We represent workers in the economy,” Nissenkorn told Globes. “The safety issue is a major one that affects all aspects of the economy. It’s similar to the minimum wage issue, which we helped push. The raise in the minimum wage directly affected only some workers, but it was felt throughout the economy. Worker safety will be improved in the same way. When safety for construction workers improves, it will influence other industries as well.”
Nissenkorn said that he felt that the union had no choice but to strike at this point. “We have for years been trying to get political leaders to pay attention to this problem, and usually we try to resolve issues like this with agreements. In this case, we have been discussing this with officials behind the scenes for months. Without some progress, we have no option but to strike,” he added.