On the very evening that Rose Fostanes won the XFACTOR competition in Israel, the Minister of Interior published regulations regarding the binding of caregivers to their employers, depriving Rose of her prize. But who earned the real prize? Her manpower agency.
Two days ago we watched with excitement as Rose Fostanes, a Filipino caregiver, won the final round of the television show the XFACTOR. What the Israeli public does not know is that at the very moment when thousands were elatedly texting Rose from their homes, the minister Gideon Saar published a press release, ironically timed to say the least, announcing the renewal of regulations binding caregivers to their employer.
The regulations that were published yesterday sets in motion the amendment to the Law of Entry to Israel that was passed by the Knesset over two years ago, the law that was called “the slavery law”. Through the amendment, the Ministry of Interior requires binding workers to their employers in two ways:
- The caregiver’s visa will be limited to a specific geographical area in Israel. The caregiver will not be allowed to work for an employer that resides outside the permitted area.
- The number of times a caregiver is allowed to change employer is limited to twice during a period of two years. If the caregiver requests to leave the third employer, he or she will be called to a hearing in the Ministry of Interior and be requested to prove that the decision to leave the employer was done “innocently” without “taking advantage of the work permit.”
It is outrageous to use of the term “taking advantage” when relating to the work permit for which the worker paid thousands of dollars. The state takes advantage of the plight of the caregivers and of the elderly that need care, and of course, the manpower companies take advantage of the lack of enforcement by the authorities and continue to illegally collect millions of NIS (New Israeli Shekel) each year from the caregivers as fees paid for the “right” to work in Israel.
Two weeks ago the foreign caregivers of Israel marched in Tel Aviv calling for the Israeli government to ratify the “Domestic Worker’s Convention” of the International Labor Organization to protect the rights of workers whose place of work is the employer’s home. The treaty includes clauses regarding the equality before the law, freedom to choose an employer, and prohibition of collecting “agency fees” directly from the workers. Despite the fact that the treaty aims to protect vulnerable workers who, by necessity, work in their employer’s home exposing them to exploitation and injury, the State of Israel refuses to sign the treaty.
It appears that the main beneficiaries of the amended regulations are the manpower companies in Israel. The regulation makes it possible and even encourages the rapid deportation of caregivers from Israel thereby opening the door to bring new workers who will also pay thousands of dollars to the manpower companies, despite the fact that the practice is illegal. A mechanism is created that lubricates the revolving doors at the expense of vulnerable and exploited workers, while all they ask is to improve the conditions of their life and to promise their children a better future.
The regulations published by the Minister of the Interior do not take into consideration the basic rights to which every human being is entitled. These are rights that many Israelis take for granted, such as the freedom of movement, the right to choose one’s employer and place of work, the right to choose the geographical area for employment, and the basic right to resign without fear of deportation and loss of future income. Nor do the new regulations relate to the nature of the work with the elderly; such work is extremely wearing and frequently results in the need to find a new employer due to circumstances which are not under the caregiver’s control.
The caregivers who are employed for the third time will think long and hard before quitting their job if the result would most likely bring about their deportation from Israel, even if their salary is not paid in full, if they have unsatisfactory living conditions or just two hours of sleep a night, or even if they suffer sexual or physical violence.
The Minister of the Interior chose to announce the new regulations two weeks after the caregiver’s march, on the background of racism and incitement towards asylum seekers, and on the evening when a foreign caregiver won the grand prize on one of the most watched reality show in Israel. This clearly illustrates the course that the Ministry of Interior is taking; complete disassociation from reality, ignoring what is happening in the international arena, and gross violations of basic human rights.
The author is Coordinator for Migrant Caregivers at Kav LaOved
Translation: Sharon Kerpel