November 6, 2014
By Hanna Zohar
State Comptroller’s Report recently published information regarding employment of Palestinians in the construction sector. It reveals the ongoing theft from workers salaries under the auspices of the Civil Administration Payroll Department which serves as the authorized conduit for transferring salaries and social benefits to Palestinian workers employed in Israel.
The Ministerial Committee decision of October 8, 1970 states that according to the law “a worker from the territories” will receive wages and social benefits equal to those of an Israeli worker who has the same personal and professional profile. The Payroll Department is responsible to ensure payment of salary and full social benefits.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Payroll Department is not implementing the government’s decision in its entirety. According to the most recent State Comptroller’s report, “Four years after the signing of a collective agreement that includes the terms of employment of Palestinian workers in the construction sector, the Payroll Department has not yet adjusted the payments and benefits due to Palestinian workers in construction to equal those of Israeli workers in accordance with the government’s 1970 decision. We see the conduct of the Payroll Department as egregious. The unit does not guarantee that workers receive their full legal rights including minimum wage, seniority, holidays, vacation, and convalescence pay. Salary slips issued by the division of Palestinian workers do not reflect the full wage components to which they are entitled.“
The comptroller’s report also discusses the disparate allocation of permits to employers regarding permits for employment of Palestinian workers. The report states that funds are being deducted from workers’ wages but not transferred to their destinations despite the promise of the state. This report concludes that the Payroll Department is not matching wages and social benefits for Palestinian workers to Israeli workers but instead it functions as a mechanism to transfer billions of shekel belonging to Palestinian workers to the government Finance Ministry.
The auditor’s conclusions about the Payroll Department’s failures have been known for several years. As early as 2010, Kav LaOved published a report called “State Robbery” which examined the conduct of the Payroll Department and estimated that billions of shekels were stolen from the workers. The State Comptroller’s report not only confirmed this but also confirmed the Kav LaOved report.
In view of the serious delinquent conduct uncovered in the comptroller’s report, the auditor recommends that the state reconsider the continued existence of the Payroll Department. It is unfortunate that the auditor did not recommend that the state pay the workers the funds that have been stolen from them over the years.
The author is the founder of Kav LaOved.
Translation by Sharon Kerpel