Hundreds of “Volunteers” Work in Israeli Agriculture for Slave Wages

Kav LaOved (KLO – Workers Hotline) has disclosed that hundreds of persons from peripheral capitalist countries are brought to Israeli kibbutzim and other farming enterprises as “volunteers” for agricultural work and are paid 1/3 of the local minimum wage, or just under 10 shekels (about US$ 2.75) an hour. KLO exposed this situation and submitted a demand for clear and standardized regulations in this matter with both the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labor and Welfare. KLO’s submission was made jointly with The Hotline for Migrants and Refugees.

Two Burmese "volunteer" agricultural workers in a field somewhere in Israel (Photo: Kav LaOved)

Two Burmese “volunteer” agricultural workers in a field somewhere in Israel (Photo: Kav LaOved)

According to Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA), the number of “volunteer” workers in kibbutzim coming from Third World countries has risen in recent years: they now account for half of all foreign “volunteers” in Israel. The experience of these “volunteers” in Israel can be chilling. Some cases reviewed by KLO included a ban on the worker’s freedom of movement, a reduction in already meager wages when a worker becomes ill, and working under a barrage of threats from the employer.

In fact, three Indian “volunteers” whom KLO assisted were officially recognized as being held under conditions of slavery. KLO attorney Michal Tadjer said in an interview with a local radio station: “There are hundreds of such cases. This is not a new invention — to bring people from poor countries [to Israel] and call them ‘volunteers.’ We have to stop this abuse.”