Kav LaOved – Worker’s Hotline is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the defense of workers’ rights and the enforcement of Israeli labor law designed to protect every worker in Israel, irrespective of nationality, religion, gender, and legal status. Since its establishment in 1991, Kav LaOved has helped workers from all sectors realize and uphold their rights.
Kav LaOved’s services target the most disadvantaged workers in Israel, including those employed by contracts and receiving low wages, Arab citizens of Israel, Palestinians, migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers, and new immigrants.
Kav LaOved operates three branches, employs 24 staff members and 4 national civil service volunteers and enlists the crucial support of over 130 volunteers. In 2014, the organization served over 55,000 workers and secured more than 24 million New Israeli Shekels in total withheld sums entitled to workers by law.
Kav LaOved envisions an Israeli society in which workers, regardless of gender, religion, nationality, race, age and legal status in the Israeli labor market, are respected, valued, and recognized for their contributions via full and complete protection of their labor rights.
Kav LaOved aspires to prevent abuse and exploitation of workers by demanding fair employment terms and conditions, addressing both individual cases and greater phenomena of violation of workers’ rights. Kav LaOved strives to improve and strengthen:
- Workers’ Awareness in order to inform, educate, and empower workers to know and defend their own labor rights
- State Policy in order to create, amend, and enforce legislation to improve employment terms and conditions in the Israeli labor market
- Social Responsibility in order to influence Israeli culture and society to recognize the rights of disadvantaged workers in the Israeli labor market and uphold principles of social justice
Modes of Action
- Individual assistance to workers via public reception hours, the internet, and Kav LaOved’s telephone hotline in order to find effective and safe solutions for workers experiencing abuse and exploitation.
- Public advocacy through development of position papers, attendance in parliamentary committees, ongoing dialogue with various government ministries, and principled petitions to Israeli labor courts.
- Cooperative partnership with state authorities, monitoring current policies, encouraging effective enforcement over employers, and supervising the granting of employment licenses and work permits.
- Legal and procedural support by advising and representing workers and partaking in litigation.
- Education and community outreach by raising awareness of workers’ rights in individual workers and society at large via distribution of “Zchutonim” (informational flyers detailing workers’ legal rights) in numerous languages, publishing thematic flyers, research and reports, and conducting workshops and lectures for workers as well as students, lawyers, etc.
- Partnerships with a wide range of Israeli and international organizations, unions, and institutions for human and workers’ rights.
Individual Assistance – Kav LaOved serves over 35,000 workers every year. In 2012 alone, the organization secured over 16,000,000 NIS in sums withheld by employers and entitled to workers by law (i.e. pension payments, recuperation, holidays, etc.). Over 3,394 new files were opened and 7,715 files closed in 2012.
Social Reform – Kav LaOved’s daily encounters with workers and the injustices of the Israeli labor market lead to principled actions: promoting regulatory standards, altering employment procedures, influencing public perception and increasing awareness of marginalized workers’ rights.
- Initiating the Law for Substitution Annuities: A worker is guaranteed a salary that is no less than the minimum wage by the National Insurance Institute in cases of work accident, army reserves, unemployment or employer bankruptcy.
- Amending the Minimum Wage Law: The employer carries the responsibility of paying minimum wage to his/her workers based on all hours worked. This amendment took place in the framework of the Minimum Wage Forum.
- Initiating the Responsibility of the Body Ordering the Service Law: This initiative is currently being discussed in the Labor and Welfare Committee. Awareness and urgency of the matter in the labor market has led to a directive by the Minister of the Ministry of Economy, previously known as the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor (MOITAL).
- Amending Section 24 of the Wage Protection Law: The amendment obligates employers to provide salary stubs with detailed and accurate information, as well as a printout of hours worked.
- Increasing Enforcement Law: Valid since 2012, this law was derived from the Responsibility of the Body Ordering the Service Law. The law led to an extension of MOITAL’s supervision over contract employers and those ordering the services of contract workers. The law contributed to putting the poor state of Israeli contract workers on the public agenda. More importantly, MOITAL shed light on the consequences of breaking these laws through various publications targeted at employers. This piece of legislation and the full support of MOITAL to implement the law are both a welcomed result of Kav LaOved’s hard work and many activities exposing the phenomenon of exploitation of contract workers.
Petitions to the High Court of Justice (HCJ)
- The binding arrangement case: According to the binding arrangement, an employer’s name is stamped in a worker’s passport. This ensures the loss of the worker’s legal status if s/he works for another employer, or an additional job, putting the worker at risk of arrest and deportation by the Foreigners Enforcement Unit and the Immigration Police. This arrangement binds the worker to the employer, hence the term. Kav LaOved, in partnership with other organizations, petitioned to cancel the practice. As a result, the HCJ ordered the state to replace the binding agreement with a safer and fairer arrangement.
- The Givat Ze’ev case: In this case, Palestinian workers employed by Israeli companies in the settlements in the West Bank demanded recognition of their labor rights according to Israeli labor laws. The National Labor Court determined that labor laws in the West Bank for Palestinian workers are subject to Jordanian law. The HCJ, however, overruled the National Labor Court decision and declared that Israeli labor laws apply to Palestinian workers employed by Israelis in the jurisdiction of local and regional councils in the West Bank.
- After six years of litigation by Kav LaOved, the High Court of Justice rejected the appeal of Yolanda Gluten with a majority rule, stating that the Work and Rest Hours Law does not apply, categorically and comprehensively, to the work of migrant workers in the caregiving sector. Excluding migrant workers from the application of this law means that minimal standards do not apply to them and therefore it is possible to employ them 24 hours a day, with no breaks or weekly rest, and with no obligation to pay them for working overtime, on Shabbat or holidays. The consequence is unprecedented: excluding tens of thousands of disadvantaged and unorganized workers, over 80% of whom are women, from this basic labor law. It was agreed that the legal advisor to the government will provide an update regarding the subject of caregivers in legislation.
- Increasing the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor’s supervision over the employers of migrant workers by raising the fines and indictments against offensive employers and preventing abusive behavior.
- A substantial part of the State Comptroller Report of 2011 was based on evidence from Kav LaOved, which criticized the lack of enforcement by governmental bodies of Palestinian workers’ rights in the settlements. Following the report, the number of Arabic-speaking supervisors working with employers in the settlements increased.
Improving Working Conditions for Migrant Workers
- Fighting exorbitant brokerage fees: Kav LaOved has succeeded in pushing for bilateral agreements between sending countries and Israel to improve the process of recruiting migrant workers. Two agreements have been implemented: first, an agreement with the Government of Thailand now recruits agricultural workers through the IOM (International Organization for Migration), and second, agreements with Bulgaria and Romania coordinate recruitment of construction workers. These agreements guarantee the recruitment of workers by the states themselves, contrary to privatized recruitment processes which may exploit the worker.
- Limiting the import of new workers, demanding the employment of workers currently in Israel, and inhibiting the migration of additional workers from abroad.
- Extending the “preparation for departure period”: This is the amount of time allowed to migrant workers after they finish working in Israel in order to claim their rights and make preparations for departure. After years of efforts, Kav LaOved succeeded in extending the period from 30 to 60 days.
- Cancellation of the procedure regarding pregnant migrant workers: After the HCJ ruling in 2011, new regulations allow caregivers to continue working in Israel with their child, given necessary registrations and conditions are fulfilled. This eliminated the previous situation of having to choose between terminating their work or sending the baby abroad as a condition for renewal of visa.
- Updating the inter-visa procedure: This allows migrant workers to visit their home country even when they are not employed and even if the manpower company refuses to authorize their visit.
Improving the Welfare of Caregivers – Sexual harassment, abuse and long delays in payment decreased among caregivers in 2012. Activities by the authorities, under Kav LaOved’s pressure, assisted in bringing about change.
Improving the Welfare of Refugees and Asylum Seekers – Consistent and close cooperation between Kav LaOved and other organizations prevented attempts of the Ministry of the Interior (led by past Minister Eli Yishai) to ban refugees from working, and thus surviving, in Israel.
- The Badge of Israel’s National Committee for Volunteering
- The Award of the Knesset Chairman for Quality of Life
- The Emblem of the President for Fighting Human Trafficking
- The Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award
- The Silver Rose Award from the organization “SOLIDAR: Advancing Social Justice in Europe and Worldwide”
Alfred and Isabel Bader Philanthropic Fund
The Israeli Ministry of Economy