Hadash and Communist Party of Israel (CPI) activists held protests in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Nazareth, as well as at the Yuvalim Junction near Sakhnin, on Friday, January 22, over the job-related deaths of 67 workers during 2020, among them 35 construction workers. The protests took place under the banners “Tycoons and building contractors live in palaces while workers get coffins” and “No to construction over the bodies of workers.”
Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) participated in the protest in south Tel Aviv where he told those gathered, “Even though far fewer construction projects were undertaken in 2020 than in previous years because the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of deaths due to construction accidents was still similar to that for 2019.” He said, “We demand the introduction of comprehensive reforms based on the creation of a National Authority for Work Safety.”
MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List), took part in the vigil held at the Yuvalim junction and said, “Construction workers continue to pay with their lives for the authorities’ incompetence, capitalist exploitation and the far-right government’s apathy. The police do not investigate fatal accidents professionally and very few violators end up indicted. Since the beginning of the year, the Labor Ministry has issued 850 orders against construction sites in violation of guidelines, but these do not deter anyone as is demonstrated in the recurrence of safety violations at the very same sites where safety orders had previously been issued. As long as imposing the orders does not necessarily result in a disciplinary process managed by the registrar of contractors and the 30-day closing of violating sites, the zero-deterrence policy will continue.”
According to Hadash, there is a distinct racist element involved in the wanton non-enforcement of safety regulations at construction sites in Israel: because the overwhelming mass of workers are either Arab, both citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the occupied territories, or foreign workers, there is no broad public outcry against the national disgrace, and the government feels itself unpressured to devise a national plan and allocate the resources necessary for its implementation. While the Labor and Welfare Ministry is meant to supervise building sites, it lacks the manpower to offer continuous ongoing inspections of all building sites across the country. Even an attempt to introduce a new type of safety scaffolding into the industry was never fully implemented. The result is that most of the scaffolds used in Israel today are one or two decades old and. During a recent survey on the ground, half of the building sites inspected throughout the country had unsafe scaffolding.