Kav LaOved, together with Hotline – The Center for Refugees and Migrant Workers and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, appealed yesterday to the Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, and to the designated Minister of Finance, MK Moshe Kahlon, to warn about the harsh implications of the coalition agreement between the Likud and Kulanu parties. The agreement aims to enable foreign contractual companies to bring migrant workers to Israel in a way which will lead to severe violations of the rights of migrant workers, potentially even leading to human trafficking.
Organizations for Human Rights protested against the coalition agreement for allowing foreign contractual companies to bring migrant workers to Israel, and stated in their appeal: “This will cause severe violations of migrant workers’ rights, as well as those of Israeli workers in the same jobs.”
According to the agreement, the government will act to regulate cooperation between Israeli and foreign companies executing contractual jobs. The agreement enables foreign companies to bring migrant workers to Israel based on contractual agreements with Israeli companies, and determines that the quota of migrant workers be based on the annual financial scope of the job. In order to ensure that the migrant workers leave Israel, the agreement determines that a sum of money be deposited with the State of Israel as a guarantee by both the foreign and the Israeli contractor, to be returned only after the migrant workers leave Israel.
In the appeal, advocate Hanni Ben Israel from Kav LaOved explains the dangers in the fact that contractual companies from foreign countries, where different labor laws and regulations apply, become employers of thousands or tens of thousands of migrant workers in Israel. “The framework is prone to trouble in every aspect. Past experience teaches that employment of migrant workers by foreign contractors operating in Israel leads to application in practice of the foreign law which is usually immeasurably more discriminating than the labor laws in Israel. Furthermore, accumulated experience teaches that even if broker fees are not taken from the workers they are bound to the job by having them sign promissory notes meant to ensure obedience to the commands of the company during the period of the job, and to thwart any intentions of resignation. This will necessarily result in very bad work conditions and severe violations of basic rights.”
In addition, “the concern that the framework will bind migrant workers to the foreign companies bringing them to Israel grows when we read in the agreement that to ensure that the foreign workers leave Israel, both the foreign and Israeli contractors will be required to deposit money with the State as guarantee that the workers will leave. This guarantee will be returned only after the migrant workers leave Israel.” The petitioners remind everyone that in the past the demand that obligated the employers to “remove” their employees from Israel after they stopped working for these employers was cancelled since it involved forced removal of the workers by their employers or manpower agencies, including hijacking workers to take them to the airport, violence, threats, and fraud.
Furthermore, the petitioners stress that the coalition agreement contradicts and cancels previous government decisions on the subject and in particular the decision that the government will recruit migrant workers only through bilateral agreements with the countries of origin of the workers. In this arrangement, which will be canceled under the new framework, the manpower agencies are supervised thus restricting their ability to abuse the migrant workers.
The appeal also points out that the system of employing migrant workers by foreign companies fundamentally changes the employment framework in the construction sector and is likely to harm labor relations in Israel, not only of migrant workers but also of Israelis seeking employment in construction and other relevant sectors. The foreign companies may hire migrant workers for jobs which under a different framework would go to Israelis. In light of all the aforesaid, the petitioners strongly request that the entire agreement not be activated.
Translated by Dvorah Shainok