Social workers ended their 17-day strike on Wednesday morning, July 22, after reaching an agreement with the Finance Ministry for higher salaries and funding to provide protection for workers when on the job. The end of the strike means that an estimated 1.5 million people will now be able to get the social services they so desperately need during the coronavirus pandemic. Social workers had struck to protest the collapse of social services, a huge caseload of hundreds of families per worker, low pay and unsafe working conditions.
The Union of Social Workers accepted an offer by the government that includes an allocation of NIS 200 million ($58 million) for salary raises starting next summer, followed by a second tranche to be implemented at a later date when salary agreements are negotiated, as well as a budget of NIS 70 million ($20 million) for protective programs. In addition, all workers will get a 2020-2021 bonus of NIS 9,000-11,000 ($2,630-$3,217).
Union chair Inbal Hermoni celebrated the agreement in an announcement to the members declaring, “We won! A tremendous struggle is coming to an end today with our tremendous victory.” On Tuesday, July 21, the social workers’ union rejected an initial proposal by the Finance Ministry that included a salary increase of a few hundred shekels per month and a one-year protection program against the violence they face on the job. On the same morning, social workers gathered in Tel Aviv’s central Rabin Square from where they marched down Ibn Gabirol Street, a major thoroughfare in the city.
Fundamentalist Capitalist Initiatives
The far-right government is considering extreme neoliberal measures such as lowering the minimum wage to “encourage businesses to hire workers amid the coronavirus crisis,” a report said Tuesday evening, drawing rebuke from the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) and Hadash lawmakers in the Joint List. The proposal, reported by the Kan public broadcaster, comes as “businesses hesitate to rehire employees they had or will put on unpaid leave, or recruit new ones, amid the economic crisis caused by measures imposed to curb the coronavirus outbreak.”
The proposal was also individually lambasted by Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash), a leading member of the CPI. “The fundamentalist capitalist ideas [put forth] by the government of Israel to lower the minimum wage and erode workers’ rights during an unprecedented social crisis will not pass,” she said. “We won’t allow them to pass. Such measures are not being weighed even in the most savage capitalist states.”