Far-right government ministers voted Sunday, March 6, against a bill that would prohibit restaurants in Israel from counting tips for waiters towards their salaries and force them instead to pay their staff minimum wage. According to Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), who submitted the bill in 2013, the legislation would prevent the exploitation of waiting staff in the service industry by formalizing waiters’ compensation.
Khenin’s bill enjoys the combined support of 63 coalition and opposition lawmakers. According to the Waiters’ Association, tens of thousands of Israelis working in the food and beverage industry are unprotected by basic labor laws. “Without a base salary or minimum wage, we have no rights,” said the group’s founder and union organizer, Alon-Lee Green, in a Facebook post praising Khenin’s proposal.
In addition to ensuring a minimum hourly wage, the legislation would require restaurateurs to pay staff members who are scheduled for standby shifts, and would prohibit managers from delaying the start of shifts. “Employment without orderly pay structure often leads to the exploitation of waiters,” Khenin said ahead of the Knesset committee decision, according to the report. “Since informal work agreements are not protected under the law, it creates a loophole that allows waiters’ work conditions to be degraded.”
Khenin estimates that waiters in Israel lose some 7,000 shekels (nearly $2,000) a year in social benefits under the current system. “A tip is not a salary; it’s a service charge the customer chooses to pay at the conclusion of service. And, according to Israeli law, a wage is legally defined as being at least minimum wage — funds to be paid from the employers’ payroll for each hour worked,” Khenin said.
Green, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel, said most waiters in Israel do not receive compensation or standby pay and are not reimbursed for travel expenses. “All other labor rights and laws that ensure employees receive overtime or Sabbath pay, holidays, sick leave and pension programs are based on minimum wage laws,” he wrote. “Even if waiters earn 5,000 Shekels a month for a period of two years, they could be fired and not be eligible for a single shekel of compensation.”