International Workers Memorial Day, April 28
Workers Advice Center – Safety at Work Dept
Around the world, unions are marking International Workers Memorial Day on April 28 to the memory of those killed in workplace accidents. This day was recognized in the 1980s by Canada as a national memorial day, and has since become an international event to raise awareness about safety at work and pay respects to the families of workers killed or disabled by work accidents.
We note with concern the steep rise in the number of fatal work accidents in the first quarter of 2011. According to a list collated by Lizet Sharbit, chairperson of the Work Accident Orphans Organization, 17 people have already died in work accidents since the beginning of the year (list attached). Extrapolated, this would mean an annual average of 68 – a significant increase from the current average of 53 deaths per year.
This is a direct reflection of the contempt for workers’ rights and employment security in Israel. Industry, garages, construction companies, haulage firms and even government ministries, all work according to the principle of cost-cutting, and enforcement of safety regulations is the first victim. At construction sites around the country, including those in the heart of major cities, workers climb improvised scaffolding without suitable clothing and equipment, constantly putting their lives at risk.
The construction workers union, which should have protested this state of affairs, has long since lost its members with the influx of migrant labor and agency workers into the construction branch. The supervision department of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor complains of lack of resources but the Finance Ministry continues to cut back funding, leaving the issue of safety scandalously unregulated.
Moreover, when there is a fatal accident, those responsible are rarely brought to trial. Recently, managers of the Roladin chain of cafés were sentenced to just six months’ community service after an employee was killed due to negligence.
The Workers Advice Center (WAC) has been active to promote safety at work for a long time, because the construction branch is the most dangerous industry – about half of all fatal work accidents take place in construction even though only some 10% of the nation’s workforce is employed in this branch.
Last year WAC launched a campaign to raise workers’ awareness of safety issues, in cooperation with the National Insurance Institute’s Manof Fund. As part of the project, WAC holds workshops led by Safety Officer Hassan Shuli. In July, WAC will hold a national conference on safety at work, with the participation of the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene, representatives of injured workers’ families, experts on safety issues, and hundreds of Arab construction workers organized by WAC.
For details of WAC’s Safety at Work Campaign and the conference in Nazareth, contact Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka, WAC’s director of safety at work issues: 050-4330037
International Workers Day in Tel Aviv: Next Saturday, April 30, WAC is holding a march to mark International Workers Day, with the participation of construction workers, teachers, agricultural laborers, waiters, social workers and truck drivers, Jews and Arabs, locals and migrant workers. For details, visit WAC’s website: www.wac-maan.co.il