Histadrut Promises General Strike Sunday Over Worker Safety

A large building under construction in central Yerushalayim. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Histadrut labor union on Tuesday authorized a general strike for next Sunday – unless the Knesset approves new rules for worker safety at building sites. The rules were part of an agreement signed by the union with the Finance and Welfare Ministries to change standards for worker safety, upgrading the Israeli safety standards to European standards. The agreement was signed in the wake of a strike the Histadrut threatened over the issue in October.

A report in Globes said that due to the fall of the government, procedural issues had prevented the final approval of the regulations. The Histadrut said Tuesday that it was giving the government until Sunday to overcome the bureaucracy and install the rules.

The new regulations will follow European guidelines, with higher barriers and stronger measures to keep scaffolding in place. The Labor and Welfare Ministry will work with other ministries on legislation to require contractors and building companies to adopt the new standards, with penalties to be built into the law for those who fail to update their scaffolding.

Those penalties could include fines, if inspectors catch contractors failing to uphold the standards – or criminal charges, if a construction worker falls to his death off scaffolding. That happened over 40 times in 2018, and adoption of the European standards on scaffolding is a central demand of the union to prevent a strike.

In a statement,Welfare Minister Chaim Katz said that the new regulations “are the best response to the need to improve the safety of scaffolding, and encompass the material scaffolding is made of, how it is constructed, and how it is used, taking into account the stress it is expected to sustain.”