Serious Violations of the Right to Medical Care of Palestinian Workers Employed in Israel

Kav LaOved – The Worker’s Hotline has published a disturbing report dealing with the infringement of basic health care rights of Palestinian workers employed in Israel by the Ministry of Finance. Based on data collected through the Freedom of Information Act, the report reveals that tens of millions of shekels ostensibly deducted from the wages of the workers to insure their health care and welfare services, is in fact channeled to the Ministry of Finance where it is used for other purposes.

Palestinian workers pray after crossing into Israel via the Eyal checkpoint, near the occupied West Bank city of Qalqilya

Palestinian workers pray after crossing into Israel via the Eyal checkpoint, near the occupied West Bank city of Qalqilya (Photo: Activestills)

Nearly 100,000 Palestinians currently work in Israel with permits from the Israeli government. In 2014 alone, the sum of NIS 100 million was deducted from their salaries purportedly for the funding of health and social services, but most of this amount was instead transferred to the Ministry of Finance where Palestinian workers have no access to it nor do they derive any benefits from it. For example, most Palestinian workers are not paid sick leave. Similarly, those injured in work-related accidents are required to pay out of their own pockets for most medical treatments they require, whether in Israel or in the Occupied Territories. In addition, millions of shekels are regularly transferred to health clinics which are designated for occupational health services, but are not being used for this purpose.

Until now, the report by the State Comptroller which exposed and condemned this malfeasance by the state has not put an end to the practice of transferring funds to the Ministry of Finance instead of to the social services for which they were deducted from the workers’ wages in the first place.

By law, Palestinian workers employed in Israel are entitled to wages and conditions identical to those of Israeli workers. Employers are required to pay the workers a net salary, report the gross salary to the Payment Section at the Ministry of Interior (“Matash”) and transfer to this body the deductions made by the employer to cover the following:

  • Funds for insurance and health payments – which Matash is required transfer to the National Insurance Institute of Israel, to the Kupot Holim (Israel’s health organizations – HMO) and to the Ministry of Finance (and from there to the Palestinian Authority)
  • Equalization Surcharge – the differential between the full insurance payment and the partial insurance covering Palestinian workers. This sum is transferred to the Ministry of Finance from where it is supposed to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority and to the Kupot Holim.
  • Sick pay and vacation pay – which should be paid by Matash to the workers during their term of employment.
  • Severance pay and pension – beginning four months after the end of their employment, workers are entitled to receive the funds accumulated during their years of work.

Again, many of these funds do not reach the Palestinian workers at all and are not being used to implement their social rights. One reason for this is that Israel often does not transfer to the Palestinian authority funds which are supposed to be paid to the latter. As noted by the State Comptroller in 2014, another reason is the conduct of Matash which “has failed to fulfill its duty to protect the rights of Palestinian workers,” by failing to equate the wage conditions and employment rights of Palestinians to those of Israelis, as required by law. The Comptroller wrote that he “regards the conduct of Matash as gravely wrong,” and that “the Government should review the duties of [Matash] and the continuation of its operation in the future with respect to this issue.”

Download the full report in English