Rarely Do Palestinian Workers in Israel Get Sick Pay They Deserve

Palestinians from the occupied territories who work in Israel building homes and plowing fields pay taxes every month to ensure a minimum of rights, and wait long hours every day for the right to earn a (very meager) living. But when they fall ill, the state ignores them and keeps their money for itself, and has been blatantly robbing these workers in broad daylight for decades.

Palestinian workers from the occupied territories on route to Israel

Palestinian workers from the occupied territories on route to Israel (Photo: Al Ittihad)

According to Ala Khatib, Executive Director of Kav La’Oved, “in the last 4 years alone, the state collected approximately 200 million shekels ($52 million) for a fund dedicated for Palestinian workers’ to be able to take paid sick leave. But in that time the state has paid out only 7 million [shekels] to a tiny number of workers, and only after long delays. The burdensome, bordering on impossible, task of filing and receiving a request for paid sick leave has deterred all but the most severely ill from even trying. And those who are severely ill have reported postponing critical medical treatments and operations for months while they waited to hear about their request. This year, the rate of sick workers who received payment was a meager 0.25% or only 156 workers out of 60,000 employees, prior to our recent intervention.”

In August 2016, Kav LaOved filed a petition to the Supreme Court against the government for their mismanagement of this fund. In late November, Kav LaOved worked closely with Or Kashti, a journalist from Haaretz, helping to provide background research and coordinate interviews, in order to highlight the plight of this vulnerable group of workers.
“One week following the publication of the article we received some encouraging news – suddenly requests that had been languishing on the desks of government officials for months were being processed. The increased public scrutiny combined with the Supreme Court appeal had spurred the government into action, which approved and paid 248 claims requests amounting to 660,000 shekels ($171,000) in a single day. We can only hope that continued monitoring and advocacy by Kav LaOved will ensure this becomes the new norm. Yet, the profound, decades-long, mismanagement of the governmental sick-pay fund is still to be battled in court,” added Khatib.

December 10 marked Human Rights Day, and was commemorated by millions around the world. This in the anniversary of the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including among many other critical rights, Article 23 which states, “Everyone has the right to work … Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity.” Khatib said: “I want to use this occasion to both thank all of our supporters who made this important win possible and to collectively rededicate ourselves to the achievement of rights for all workers.”


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