A - I n f o s
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(en) "Temp" workers companies intensify the Flexploitation.
Thu, 8 Jul 1999 06:26:58 -0400
A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
In their efforts to divide the working class and rule, the capitalist
in Israel invented a new technique. New workers in public and
organized workplaces of private sector are hired with out the
umbrella of contracts with trade unions.
They are not protected by the trade union network. Get inferior
wages and social security benefits. Easy to fire.
The more this system was developed, the higher on the
sophistication scale the professions that were involved in
it and the more people with social empowered abilities
were included in it.
After years of working at the same working place, people
realized it is not a "temporary" period, and the beginning
of struggle was imminent.
It begun with marginal cleaning workers and night janitors
and developed to include highly professional accountants.
This and other Israeli specific dynamics are the background
for the new development.
Seeking to change temp workers' sorry lot Relegated to
second-class status, temporary workers suffer from lower pay,
reduced benefits and no job security. A new union wants to
change all that:
By Einat Fishbein
Power - The Independent Trade Union of Manpower Workers,
a new trade union and the first of its kind, was founded last
week. The union was established to take care of the sad
situation of employees of manpower agencies in light
of the fact that the Histadrut labor federation continues to ignore the
plight of temporary workers. The union was founded by some 10 employees of
manpower companies employed in the public sector, most by the Ministry of
Education, with the help and support of the Kav La'oved (Workers' Line)
organization. Angela Borochov of Jerusalem, the union's leader, is the only
one among the founders who has managed to overcome her fear of being fired from her job and has agreed to be quoted by name. The others are still
The founders say that the approximately 400 members who have signed
information forms will form the organization's nucleus. The group aims to
serve as the trade union for the more than 100,00 workers currently employed
by manpower agencies.
Borochov, who has been a temporary worker for the last six years in a
government office, quickly realized the difference between her position and
that of the permanent office workers at her office. "I discovered that I am
a second-class worker," she says, "that there is no link whatever between my
working conditions and those of the person working right at the next desk,
only because she is a regular worker and I'm not. I am just as good as she
is, but I belong to a manpower firm."
The gap is reflected in everything. Her take-home pay is lower; she is
entitled to less sick leave, vacation and vacation benefits and holidays.
She has no chance of getting a promotion, her salary is reviewed only once
in five years, study funds are nonexistent as far as she is concerned and
she has no strike fund or any chance of making a bid for an internal tender.
Each of the different manpower firms have their own
ways of deducting small but annoying sums from their
employees' paychecks. These range from cutbacks on travel
expenses to subtracting work hours here and there. Contract
workers can be transferred from one manpower firm to another without being
informed. From their paychecks, various and sundry deductions are made
without their permission (such as for the "welfare fund").
Worst of all, a temp worker can be left at home for up to three months
without his company finding other work for him or her and without receiving
any unemployment insurance. This is called the "Waiting Law." Pregnant
workers, for example, were sent home to "wait" without pay toward the end of
their pregnancies, which considerably reduces the amount of money due them
during their maternity leave.
Borochov appealed to the workers' committee in her place of employment, only
to soon discover that workers' committees are closed to temps. The public
sector, in which more than 30 percent of all workers in recent years have
been employed through manpower agencies, gains more than most from employing
workers in this manner.
The government, a huge employer of temps, is proud of the significant
cutback in the number of government jobs. How were the cutbacks
accomplished? Because temporary workers do not appear on the official
rosters of workers in the ministries. The most recent report by the state
comptroller showed that government ministries refuse to report figures on
the employment of manpower-agency workers and that there is no satisfactory
supervision of these workers' working conditions.
The biggest hurdle Borochov and her friends faced involved the Histadrut,
which also refused to help them. The government passed the Employment of
Workers by Manpower Contractors Law in 1995. The law was supposed to
regulate the rights of these workers, but instead it froze their temporary
status. Article 13 of the law stipulates that after three years of work in
the same place, workers will begin working directly for the employer and
will benefit from all the rights (with the exception of tenure) from which
the regular employees benefit.
This article was emptied of all its meaning in a late-night meeting between
representatives of the Histadrut and the owners of the manpower agencies.
This was done by the addition of a tiny article, called 13 g.
which considerably limits the scope of article 13 by saying that article 13
applies "..unless the manpower agency has signed a public agreement to
examine whether a public or collective agreement was signed with the
Histadrut." Almost all the agencies sign collective agreements, some with
the General Histadrut and the rest with the Le'umit Histadrut labor
federation. Most of the agreements are detrimental to employees and the
employees soon realized that law or no law, they would continue to be temps
for ever and ever, and that nothing significant was going to change.
While the Histadrut is currently fighting to change some of the
discriminatory agreements it signed, including the waiting law, it refuses
to relate to the temporary workers as a party to the issue. "We asked them
to meet with us to discuss the collective agreement like employees, not
objects," says Borochov, "but nothing came of it. We were told that that is
all there is and that we will not be the ones to tell them how to change the
collective agreement. We realized that only another trade union could appeal
the validity of the collective agreement, and we saw that the only solution
was to establish our own trade union to take the place of the Histadrut."
The aim of the union, which is getting ready to absorb attacks from the
owners of manpower agencies, is to conduct negotiations with employers and
to sign collective agreements in the name of the workers. The union leaders
have already received hints concerning their chances of obtaining contracts
and tenure if they back down, but they have no intention of doing so. The
union is still in its formative stages and is in the process of attracting
members, but the founders intend to start their information campaign among
manpower workers immediately. They want to inform them of their rights, to
achieve working conditions, rights and wages equal to those of regular
workers, to act to limit the period of employment in certain jobs through a
contractor. The final aim, says Borochov, is to close down the new union.
"We don't need a trade union for manpower agency workers because we don't
need manpower agency workers," she explains. "The manpower agencies are
supposed to employ temporary workers for a period of up to months. We have to
become workers, not manpower. Human beings.
KAV LA'OVED-THE WORKERS ' HOTLINE
ALLENBY STREET 78
TEL AVIV 61022
TELEPHONE: 972 3 510 2266
FAX: 972 3 517 3081
The A-Infos News Service