A worker who was laid-off due to loss of business in southern Israel, an Arab worker let go due to expressing his opinion in the social media, an agricultural worker asking how to protect himself from the rockets falling near the greenhouse where he worked, a caregiver asking if she is required to remain with the paralyzed senior in her care during a siren….Kav LaOved helped these workers and others during the combat in southern Israel in the summer of 2014.
During the first day of combat, representatives of Kav LaOved participated in a Knesset seminar deliberating the status of hourly workers: “Hourly Work – Hourly Exploitation.” The report “Free Time (Not)” was presented by the Forum for Enforcement of Workers Rights of which Kav LaOved is a member. Present were representatives of the Ministry of Economy, the Ministry of Justice, employers, labor rights organizations, and hourly workers who told their personal stories. A month later, the forum members called for the adoption of the proposal for a law adjusting the rights of hourly workers to be on par with monthly salaried workers, while pointing to the inequality of the rights of hourly workers that manifested during the period of combat.
Kav LaOved handled dozens of inquiries by workers in the south of Israel during the combat through email, the hotline, office hours, and social media.
During Operation Protective Edge, Kav LaOved, representing a number of organizations, continually updated information and questions and answers through the social media that Kav LaOved manages in various languages regarding the rights of workers in the combat zones.
Kav LaOved advised the Ministry of Economy to pay attention to the situation of monthly wage workers who would certainly be adversely affected during the first weeks of combat. We pointed out that vulnerable workers must be also included in the compensation arrangements.
After the publication of the compensation arrangements, representing the Forum for Enforcement of Workers Rights, Kav LaOved turned to the Ministry of the Economy in an urgent call to consider the difficult situation of the day, hourly, and shift workers in the combat area that were not included in the framework.
Weeks before the fighting began, very serious manifestations of hate and racism in Israeli society surfaced in the labor market as persecution based on origin, nationality, and religion. The media reported how Arab Israeli workers and Arab workers from the West Bank were being attacked because of their origin, sometimes by angry crowds calling to drive them out of their places of work. In response, the Executive Director of Kav LaOved published a short opinion column on the subject with the title “For Fairness and Equality,” which was published on the Kav LaOved website, in the social media, and in the newsletter.
As the operation progressed dozens of inquiries from Arab workers began to flow into Kav LaOved, reporting that they had been discharged from their place of work based on discriminatory practices. In response, Kav LaOved, together with Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Mossawa, published information in Arabic regarding freedom of expression and the rights of discharged workers. The information was uploaded to the organizations’ websites and Facebook pages and was shared multiple times. In addition, the information was published in the Arabic language media and news sites.
At the same time Kav LaOved, in cooperation with other human rights organizations including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Sikkuy-The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, and Itach Maaki-Women Lawyers for Social Justice, turned to the Ministry of Economy and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission demanding immediate action against the wave of firing of Arab workers in the Israeli labor market and to take all necessary measures to protect Arab workers from dismissal and harassment by employers for expressing their political views.
Kav LaOved received many inquiries from Arab workers that were fired, laid-off, or called to a hearing by their employers because of their expressions on Facebook. The workers were provided with consultations and legal advocacy by the lawyers at Kav LaOved representing workers who are suing their employers in the labor courts.
At the request of the Home Front Command (HFC) and police officials, Kav LaOved helped disseminate the defense HFC instructions during the operation in English, Russian, Tigrinya, Thai, Nepali, Sri Lanka, Arabic and Hebrew. Instructions were distributed through the social network managed by Kav LaOved in the various languages of labor market sectors.
Kav LaOved utilized agricultural worker and caregiver Facebook pages in the Thai language and in English to provide information to workers with questions of how to act in various situations during the period of combat such as dilemmas including: May a caregiver leave her patient, a paralyzed old man for whom she is caring, when she hears the alarm? Do employees have the right to resign without notice during fighting? Are agricultural workers in the south entitled to move to a safer area during fighting?
Kav LaOved’s Facebook page in the Thai language was filled with comments of frightened workers, photos of workers collecting shrapnel, and videos of rockets that fell on the greenhouses where they work. Due to these postings, Kav LaOved turned to the Minister of Defense with a request to look into the lack of protection for workers in the south. A query regarding the protection of workers was filed by MK Michal Rosen (Meretz) but was rejected by the Ministry of Defense on the pretext of lack of funds.
A week later, after the report of the death of Narakorn Kittiyangkul from Thailand, Kav LaOved issued this press release:
“You cannot shirk responsibility. Calls for protecting agricultural workers in the south are not new; last week Kav LaOved sent a letter to the Minister of Defense demanding protection for workers, particularly in view of the death of an agricultural worker who was killed at Netiv HaAsara, the same settlement where a Thai worker was killed in 2010. However, according to the government decision regarding 400 million NIS that were provided to settlements in the south, the Ministry of Defense refused to provide for the protection of agricultural areas due to a lack of funds. We call upon the State of Israel to act as soon as possible to protect workers who, very often, must continue to work even under the threat of the tunnels and rocket fire.”
As a result of this activity the Ministry of Finance provided funds to protect agricultural workers and the response was broadly published in the media.
Translation: Sharon Kerpel