Workers at an Israeli plant which employs Palestinians in the Jerusalem region contacted WAC MAAN, September 30th, after their employer said they would have to work 24-hour shifts. The union approached the Ministry of Labour on this and the next day sent a letter to company that made it clear that shifts of 24 hours were illegal and that any attempt to enforce such shift will be rejected. The employer backed down.
Workers at the plant unionized with WAC about a year ago. One of their key demands was to end 24-hour shifts. These long shifts, apart from being illegal, lead to exhaustion and work accidents. When the worker began organizing, WAC made it clear that the plant would have to stop these shifts, and the employer indeed ended them.
Now, with the lockdown and Covid-19, the plant is trying to force workers to go back to 24-hour shifts. The notice that the workers received recently came from a foreman in the plant that said to the workers that the company was permitted to work at 24 hours shifts, because the plant is considered critical during the pandemic. The foreman’s announcement included a threat that those who refused may find themselves without a job.
In response, on 1 Oct., WAC Executive Director, Assaf Adiv, contacted Adv. Shiri Lev-Ran Lavi, commissioner on Foreign & Palestinian Workers’ Labor Rights at the Ministry of Labor, to ask if this plant or any other company was permitted such shifts as the employer claimed. The commissioner clarified that no employer is permitted 24-hour shifts, and that if a complaint were to be submitted, the Labor Ministry would ensure the law be enforced. WAC passed this message on to the plant management, which backed down from its intention to impose 24-hour shifts.
Following WAC’s query, the Labor Ministry issued a notice later that day to reiterate that it is forbidden to employ workers for additional hours without permission, and that any employer breaking the Hours of Work and Rest Law is liable to administrative and criminal enforcement measures.
WAC commends the rapid and unequivocal response from the Labor Ministry and the commissioner, and sees this enforcement as an important achievement for workers. WAC calls on all workers, Israeli and Palestinian, to be vigilant and to avoid accepting all notifications from the employer without question, even when the words “Covid pandemic” are used. The pandemic does not mean everything goes. WAC unionizes workers from various sectors and will assist every group of workers who contact it regarding such issues, or regarding any issue concerning employment terms and conditions.
Translation – Yonatan Preminger