Last week, hundreds of subcontracted workers participated in a historic gathering outside of the Prime Minister’s residence, demanding their right to direct employment. For the first time, Israeli subcontracted workers joined together to raise awareness about their struggle in a public demonstration. Jews and Arabs, men and women, immigrants and old-timers, unified behind one clear message: no to the enslavement of subcontracted workers, and yes to fair and direct employment.
In Israel today, one in every ten workers is a subcontracted worker. This means that over 300,000 men and women work without the benefits and salary levels that employers are legally required to provide to salaried workers. Security guards, social workers, teachers, drivers, university lecturers, bank clerks, psychologists, and guidance counselors are forced to work in suboptimal conditions with no sense of job security and minimal social benefits. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is growing, allowing employers to exploit workers without being held accountable for their actions.
In an attempt to confront this complex issue of social and economic justice, SHATIL’s Center for Policy change played an instrumental role in creating the Knesset Lobby for Direct Employment in January of this year. With the support of a wide variety of civil society organizations as well as 30 MKs spanning the Israeli political spectrum, the lobby is currently the largest lobby in the Knesset. SHATIL lobby consultant, Shay Cherpanov, SHATIL community organizer, Bella Alexandrov, and the coordinator of the Lobby for Direct Employment, Nitzan Tanami, took another giant step forward in planning this unprecedented demonstration.
Orna Amos, a social worker and the founder of the Coalition for Direct Employment, says that she saw “thousands of workers” in the hundreds of passionate faces at the demonstration. Each face provided a voice for the no longer silent community of subcontracted workers in Israel, a voice demanding social justice. As the crowd held up signs and chanted for employment rights, many subcontracted workers felt a sense of community and empowerment for the first time.
The march for direct employment ended squarely in front of the Ethiopian protest tent against racism in a symbolic show of solidarity. Because social justice is not a private affair. When we support one another in our abounding multiplicity of struggles, everyone benefits.
May 30, 2012