MK Revivo to Advance Plan for Bringing Jordanian Workers Instead of Quota for Palestinian Workers

Eliyahu Revivo. (Likud). (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

​The Special Committee on Foreign Workers, chaired by MK Eliyahu Revivo (Likud), convened on Tuesday and discussed the employment of foreign workers in the agriculture industry.

Committee Chair MK Revivo said: “Encouraging agriculture in Israel is a very important interest, due to the aspiration towards agricultural independence. It is in our interest to encourage blue-and-white [Israeli] agriculture.”

MK Revivo described the problems of foreign workers in agriculture in terms of the quota of workers, their wages, their employment conditions, and the use of drugs among foreign workers.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development MK Moshe Abutbul (Shas) said: “I see four main problems in the area of employment of foreign workers in agriculture: [1] Deduction of the subsistence allowance from the worker’s wages is about NIS 500, while the actual cost is five times as high. The amount should be updated. [2] The fee that the state imposes on the farmers in the amount of NIS 2,000 for each foreign worker employed. [3] The cost of the pension for the workers; we are compassionate towards the foreign workers, but we should also have compassion for the farmers. [4] And the issue of workers who leave their employers after a short time, since another employer offers them higher wages.”

Deputy Minister MK Abutbul said that in his opinion, the quota of foreign workers should be raised to 45,000. He said that a high number of workers would lower their cost.

MK Alon Schuster (National Unity Party) criticized the Finance Ministry, saying: “We live in an upside-down world. They speak high-flown words about a free market, but the market is managed in an irresponsible, foolish, tough and cruel way. Agriculture needs to be supplied with working hands, and these are not to be found among Israeli workers.”

MK Ahmad Tibi (Hadash-Ta’al) said that he had heard complaints from Kav LaOved — Worker’s Hotline about the failure of employers to meet their commitments to their workers, including not giving rest hours, pension payments and minimum wage.

Farmers addressing the committee raised harsh complaints about the high costs they are required to pay for employment of foreign workers, saying that these were much higher than the employment costs in other countries. The farmers argued that the agriculture industry was shrinking due to the high costs entailed by the employment of foreign workers.

MK Revivo said in response: “I asked the legal team to check what we can change in the employment conditions of the foreign workers, under the conventions to which Israel is a signatory. It’s not reasonable or equitable to pay a pension to a worker who comes to Israel to work for a short period. We can’t deviate from the agreements that the state has signed, but on the other hand, farmers are leaving the sector due to lack of economic profitability stemming from the high costs, and the agriculture industry is vanishing. ‘The poor of your own town take precedence.'”

Ministry of Agriculture Deputy Director General Dr. Assaf Levy said: “The quota of foreign workers is insufficient. A survey we conducted shows that the demand stands at 51,000 workers, versus a quota of 31,000. A foreign worker comes for five years, and a new worker can’t be booked before the old worker leaves Israel, and this creates a shortage of 5,000 workers per year. We should allow new workers to be booked before the old workers leave.”

Committee Chairman Revivo said that he intended to advance a plan to bring Jordanian workers at the expense of the quota of Palestinian workers. He said that the Agriculture Ministry supported this idea.

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