MK Revivo: Construction Industry Crisis Is Affecting the Entire Economy

By Aryeh Stern

View of a construction site in Tel Aviv. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

​​The Special Committee on Foreign Workers, chaired by MK Eliyahu Revivo (Likud), convened on Tuesday to discuss status of foreign workers in companies dealing with national infrastructure, in the context of the ongoing war.

At the start of the meeting, MK Revivo said, “It is no secret that the construction industry is experiencing a crisis that is affecting the entire economy, and may continue to affect Israel in the years to come. I have held dozens of debates on the construction industry, and I hope that the anticipated change will take place within a month, with the arrival of thousands of workers from India and Sri Lanka following the intensive work of the Population and Immigration Authority, the Ministry of Construction and Housing, the Israel Builders Association, and this committee.

“The issue of infrastructure, and particularly national infrastructure, is critical for the economy. As proof of this, the government has decided to detach it from the construction industry and designate a separate quota of foreign workers for infrastructure projects. However, it turns out that the regulations have yet to be issued because they have been tied to the regulations of the agriculture industry. In this meeting we will ask to hear about the state of the infrastructure industry during the war, how many foreign workers and Palestinian workers worked in the industry prior to the war and how many work in it today, possible solutions for alleviating the situation in the industry, and how the Government resolutions on this important matter are being implemented.”

Ministry of Construction and Housing official Michal Aran said, “We are advancing at a good pace. In India, just in New Delhi, there are more than 3,000 candidates who are currently undergoing the selection process, and in Sri Lanka as well the recruitment of workers is progressing at a good pace. We will soon begin the selection process in Uzbekistan as well.”

Inbal Mashash, director of the Foreign Workers Administration at the Population and Immigration Authority, informed the committee that according to the existing records, 4,640 Palestinian workers were employed in the infrastructure industry before the war. “There is no doubt that the infrastructure industry has taken a serious hit, and we cannot let the situation remain as it is. We will reevaluate the matter so that we will be able to present a plan that will provide a more precise response,” she said.

Tzvika David, vice president of the Israel Builders Association, said that according to a recent survey it conducted, there is a shortage of some 12,000 workers in the infrastructure industry due to the absence of Palestinian workers. “The shortage existed even before the war. The infrastructure industry must be separated from the construction industry, and the state must reduce regulation,” he said.

A Ministry of Transport and Road Safety official said, “There is an immediate shortage of 7,000 workers for transportation projects, and this shortage will become more severe next year in projects such as the metro, light rail, train tracks, and more. In Yerushalayim, due to the shortage, production is at 20%. Companies have started to recruit foreign workers, but because the work is done in open areas, there is a fear that many workers will prefer to work in the construction industry.”

Rom Bar-Av of the Ministry of Finance’s Budget Department said, “There are foreign workers who are designated for national infrastructure projects, in accordance with the Government’s decision. Certain projects have not been getting a response, so for them we are creating a special response that will include a separate quota.”

Avraham Chai Tiferet, deputy CEO of a foreign construction company, said, “The situation was intolerable even before the war. Since the outbreak of the war, there has been a mass departure of foreign workers. Every contractor who had employed Palestinian workers was forced to take workers from our projects, and because there is no enforcement, we are forced to remove cranes from projects. We fail to meet the goals and are exposed to fines and lawsuits.”

Chairman MK Revivo summed up the meeting: “The committee requests that the Ministry of Labor submit within a week the deposit regulations that are relevant to national infrastructure. In addition, the committee asks that the Ministry of Construction and Housing check with the corporations to see how many of the candidates in India have already obtained a police certificate.”

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