With the support of the Hadash workers faction, the Histadrut Labor Federation, Israel’s largest workers union, threatened on Sunday, November 8, to launch a general nationwide strike, demanding to pay wages to workers obliged to undergo quarantine amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The union announced a general labor dispute, meaning that in 14 days it can legally begin a general strike that will shut down the country’s economy.
In late September, the Histadrut, the Ministry of Finance, and representatives of the nation’s employers reached an agreement on how to divide the burden of payments for quarantine days, but the outline has still not been put to a vote in the Knesset. “So far, no solution has been found, leaving workers in an impossible situation, severely impairing their day-to-day viability,” the union said in a statement. Arnon Bar-David, chair of Histadrut, said, “The purpose of the labor dispute we have declared today is not to shut down the country but to protect the workers.” “The struggle is for all the workers throughout the State of Israel and especially for the most vulnerable – this is not just a struggle for unionized workers,” Bar-David added. “The outline for the payment of the isolation days we have reached is balanced and leaves no room for exploiting the situation; it’s a pity that it has become a farce on the backs of the workers who remain unprotected.”
Following a Supreme Court ruling last month that days spent in COVID-19-induced isolation cannot be written off as sick days, workers forced to isolate themselves must relinquish their pay and lose income if they cannot work from home.