Exploitation of workers in Israel is a growing phenomenon, and employment stability is a privilege for few. Out of a workforce of around 3 million employees, only a third are unionized. The majority are not protected by collective agreements and are subject to the discretion of their employers.

Despite advances in labor legislation, there is a significant gap between the law and reality. Bridging this gap requires more than enforcement by official authorities or the courts. The experience of labor movements worldwide shows that only organized workers can stand united against employers, demand fair rights and conditions, and ensure over time that their wages and rights are not compromised. To achieve this, workers’ committees must be established in workplaces, affiliated with a workers’ organization.

The workers’ organization has the knowledge, experience, legal standing, and capacity to exert legal and organizational pressure. A workers’ committee, supported by the organization, is the most effective tool that workers have to defend their rights. Reality in Israel and around the world shows that workers who are determined to organize successfully improve their employment conditions and wages and are protected against unilateral actions by employers.

MAAN – a workers’ organization – has been working for years to organize unorganized layers of workers in various sectors, spread in cities and villages, Jewish and Arab settlements.

The following guide outlines the potential of workers’ organization and outlines the steps towards establishing a committee and signing a collective agreement.

First Step – From Exploitation in Work to Organization

They’re exploiting me! What do I do?

The cycle of sorcery seems endless: more voluntary layoffs; resignation again due to unbearable working conditions; another new workplace; pushing back again in an attempt to secure better conditions; and again we realize that our bargaining power is limited. And so, once again, we’re left without job security and without fair compensation for our work. What do we do? Resign again? Find another new job?

The Solution: Workers’ Organization – Shifting the Balance of Power

The employer has knowledge, organizational experience, accounting management, and legal advisors. Workers’ representation speaking on behalf of all workers, accompanied legally and professionally by a workers’ organization, is your tool to change the balance of power between an individual worker and a strong employer. This enables you to improve your rights and protect your workplace.

A workers’ committee, backed by a professional association, changes the personal nature of employment relations to collective work relations. This empowers a worker to influence his or her employment conditions and wages. If until now you had to turn to your employer for every issue, from now on the workers’ committee represents you.

Workers’ representation ensures the working conditions and wages of employees in society through negotiations with the employer until the signing of a collective agreement. Such an agreement is like a workplace law, and the employer cannot unilaterally change it. This transforms the dynamics of employment relations, and workers gain job security, improved rights, and protection against arbitrary actions by employers.

Turning to MAAN Workers’ Organization

MAAN is an independent and egalitarian workers’ organization, uniting workers without distinction of nationality, religion, gender, or profession.

MAAN is a democratic workers’ organization, involving workers, listening to them, committed to their interests, and not compromising on their rights. MAAN involves workers in the stages of organization, in all details of negotiation with the employer, until the workers approve the collective agreement through voting. This participatory approach creates a dialogue and reciprocal feedback between the organization with experience and professional knowledge, and the workers who know their workplace well.

MAAN advocates for equality, with experience in uniting groups of workers speaking different languages at the workplace, building trust between them, and uniting them under one framework.

MAAN representatives provide daily support to workers throughout the process. MAAN representatives, together with the initiative group, formulate an action plan tailored to the workplace and workers, guide, assist in expanding the organizing base and adding more workers, and provide legal consultation, representation, and the backing of the legal and attorney department of the organization.

MAAN – Workers’ Organization has been working to organize unorganized workers, who comprise more than two-thirds of the workforce in Israel.

How much does it cost and when do I pay?

During the organizational stage, workers do not pay membership fees until a collective agreement is signed. Membership fees are 0.9% of gross salary (i.e., nine shekels for every thousand earned). This amount is deducted from the salary. Workers who choose not to join MAAN will pay a rate of 0.7% of their salary as service fees after a collective agreement is signed.

Step Two – Establishing a Committee

Collecting Signatures for the Establishment of a Committee

When an individual worker or a group of workers initiate organization and approach Ma’an with the goal of advancing it, the Ma’an team goes into action. In the initial stages, the activity is discreet, meaning it is kept confidential, understanding that caution is needed to prevent the employer from identifying the initiators and punishing them, firing them, or negatively affecting their employment conditions before the committee is established and the process becomes public. Harassing workers due to their involvement in organization is prohibited by law, and Ma’an’s legal department takes all forms of organization to prevent such harm.

Ma’an representatives meet with the initiating group and together develop a work plan to expand the support base for worker organization in the workplace. According to the law, as soon as one-third of the workers in the workplace sign membership forms for Ma’an, Ma’an becomes the representative workers’ organization at the workplace. As such, it is authorized to conduct collective bargaining with the employer and sign a collective agreement.

After the discreet phase of collecting signatures, and once the required number of signatures is obtained, a Ma’an representative contacts the employer, informs them of the organization’s existence, and demands to initiate negotiations for a collective agreement.

Dealing with Employer Opposition

Now you’re probably thinking, “Leave me alone with committees and organization; my employer will fire me the moment they find out I’m involved.”

It’s true that employers don’t usually jump for joy when they learn that their employees are organizing. However, an employer whose workers have organized and are determined to establish a committee and engage in collective bargaining cannot ignore their intentions.

The determination of the workers and their ability to unite and present a united front against the employer are the significant factors that contribute to the success of organization, successful collective bargaining, signing a collective agreement, and improving workplace relations.

Additionally, there are several factors that aid in worker organization when facing employer opposition:

  • Israeli law provides broad protection for worker organization and requires every employer to allow their employees to join a workers’ organization, establish a committee, and engage in such activities. The law also mandates the employer to negotiate a collective agreement with the elected workers’ representatives.

  • Israeli law also permits workers to engage in organizational actions, including strikes and other forms of pressure. Ma’an’s experience allows for planning actions that can threaten or cause economic harm to the employer while affecting the workers as little as possible.

  • Labor courts in Israel provide extensive protection for worker organization and offer broad legal interpretation of the law. Recently, an important ruling has prohibited employers from interfering in any way with their employees’ efforts to organize.

  • Through Ma’an’s legal department, effective legal tools are available that allow it to compel the employer to initiate negotiations and prevent the employer from negatively affecting workers involved in organization.

  • Public Campaign: Ma’an garners support and credibility in the public eye and among journalists both domestically and internationally. It can launch a public campaign to exert pressure on the employer for the workers’ benefit.

And as stated before, worker determination is the key. Persistent workers will withstand pressure and threats from the employer, and in turn, force the employer to acknowledge the existence of the organization, engage in negotiations, and cooperate with the elected committee and the workers’ organization.

Establishment of the Committee

What is a workers’ committee?

A workers’ committee is the representation of all the workers at the workplace, elected democratically according to Ma’an’s regulations.

In the initial stage, the committee and the workers’ organization work together to negotiate with the employer with the aim of reaching a collective agreement that will improve employment conditions and relations.

After signing a collective agreement, Ma’an provides support and guidance to the workers’ committee, so that they can address matters related to the well-being of workers, employment conditions, and the implementation of the collective agreement, on an ongoing and daily basis.”

Step Three - Negotiation and Collective Agreement

What is a Collective Agreement?

The goal of organizing is to sign a collective agreement with the employer. A collective agreement is a contract that regulates the employment relationship, including aspects such as wages, working conditions, social rights, termination procedures, and more, for all workers in the workplace. Once a collective agreement is signed, the employer is obligated to adhere to it, and any violation can be brought before the labor court. Unlike an individual contract, the employer cannot unilaterally change a collective agreement.

At the end of negotiations, the workers’ representatives bring the agreement for approval by the workers, and only after it is approved, the agreement is signed by the committee and the workers’ representatives.

A collective agreement is signed for a predetermined period and at its conclusion, a negotiation process begins for renewing the agreement, and if possible, for further improvements in conditions and wages.

Why would an employer agree to negotiate or sign a collective agreement?

Ma’an adopts an approach of cooperation and dialogue that has proven itself in the past. This approach highlights the benefits also for the employer in negotiations with the workers’ representatives and in a collective agreement – peace, stability, good communication with the workers, and positive working relationships.

In addition, Ma’an has tools to compel the employer to engage in negotiations or sign a collective agreement:

  • Appealing to the labor court. Ma’an can appeal to the labor court and compel the employer to come to the negotiation table.

  • Declaring a labor dispute and initiating a strike. Ma’an is authorized to declare a labor dispute and even initiate a full or partial strike.

  • Public campaign. United workers demanding their rights often gain broad public support. Appealing to the media during a labor dispute creates pressure on employers who do not want to tarnish their reputation.

Ma'an Workers' Organization

The workers’ organization is your union.

Ma’an – The Workers’ Organization is a partner in every social struggle for political and economic equality. Ma’an joined the protest movement against the authoritarian takeover in 2023, understanding that without democracy, workers’ rights are at risk. Ma’an was founded in the late 90s by a group of social activists, Arabs and Jews, with a vision of a just and egalitarian society. Ma’an rejects the neo-liberal capitalist system and opposes privatization policies. These policies have damaged the social safety net, deepened economic inequality, and created a large population of disenfranchised individuals. Ma’an’s goal is to build a broad and influential labor union movement that can counter the economic policies that favor the wealthy.

Ma’an works to improve the conditions of female workers in Arab communities who suffer from discrimination in Israel. Ma’an initiates and promotes diverse projects to advance the employment of Arab women. Ma’an defends and supports the struggle of Palestinian workers in the Israeli labor market, demanding an end to exploitative work permits and extreme exploitation they endure.

Ma’an unites male and female workers from various sectors, including welfare institutions, educational institutions (including arts and music), social organizations, human rights groups, and industrial enterprises, as well as in the field of occupational safety in the construction industry.

Ma’an collaborates with dozens of rights organizations and academia to advance legislation and social policies that prevent harm to workers and contribute to a more equitable society.

The solution: Organize within the Workers’ Committee and reach a collective agreement that regulates labor relations.

Join us today

אנא כתבו את שמכם המלא, טלפון ותיאור קצר של נושא הפנייה, ונציג\ה של מען יחזרו אליכם בהקדם האפשרי.

رجاءً اكتبوا اسمكم الكامل، الهاتف، ووصف قصير حول موضوع توجهكم، ومندوب عن نقابة معًا سيعاود الاتصال بكم لاحقًا

As an organization committed to the rights of workers without distinction of religion, race, nationality, gender, or profession - democracy is our essence. We strongly oppose the authoritarian laws that the extreme government of Netanyahu, Lapid, Bennett, and Smotrich is attempting to impose.

Without democracy, there are no workers' rights, just as a workers' organization cannot exist under dictatorship.

only a victory of the democratic camp will enable a discussion on the Palestinian issue and lead to an alternative solution to occupation and apartheid while ensuring human rights and citizenship for all, Israelis and Palestinians alike. As long as the apartheid regime persists, the democratic camp will not succeed in defeating Israeli extremists. Therefore, we work to involve the Arab and Palestinian society in the protest.

We invite you:

To march with us in protests and to build an alternative, democratic, Jewish-Arab professional union in Israel. Join our quiet WhatsApp group today, "Marching with us in protest."

To join MAAN and unite workers in your workplace. Read here how to join the organization.

To follow MAAN's work on social networks.

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