[Marxism] Israeli Treasury proposes legislation to ban right to strike
bryan at indymedia.org.il
Tue Nov 25 12:42:40 MST 2003
The government has been upping the ante lately against the unions and their
right to strike.
The labour dispute in the public sector was sparked off by the government's
2004 budget plan which calls for the dismissal of some 2000
additional state workers, plus cuts in pension benefits, etc.
A couple of weeks ago, a national strike was halted at the last minute (The
court order was issued an hour before the strike was to begin).
Since then the Histadrut and Netanyahu have been 'in negotiations'. During
this time there have been slowdowns in some sectors, but there has been no
movement in the negotiations and it seemed that a national strike was again
not to long in the offing.
So yesterday the Treasury Department proposed legislation that would put an
end to any thought of strikes in the future.
While the title of the Ha'aretz article (below) attempts to give a
'democratic' spin to the proposed legislation, as if strikes are at present
called even though disapproved by the majority of union members (currently,
strikes can be called by union executives without any need to consult their
memberships, however, the union leaders are elected by the membership), this
new legislation puts a large number of hurdles across the path unionized
labour, and would result in a more or less complete ban on the right to
strike if passed:
- Would make it llegal for unions to strike against government policy.
- Put a ban on 'sympathy strikes' by other public-sector unions by
defining strikes as an action against the strikers' own employer aimed at
furthering their own interests. This has been one of the main strengths of
unionized labour, giving more power to workers in sectors that have weak
leveraging ability due to small workforce or less noticable results from
- lengthen waiting period between when a work dispute is declared and when a
strike can begin from the current 15 days to 60 days
- The proposal would also forbid all public-sector strikes 30 days before
Knesset elections and/or municipal elections
On the radio yesterday I listened to a spokesperson for the Treasury try to
explain the legislation. The interviewer asked the spokesperson whether he
thought that the right of workers to strike was an important element to any
democracy. The treasury spokesman replied that it depends how you define
democracy: "In a democracy, the people are given the right every four years
to select who they think should represent them. To my disappointment, in
the past several years this has occured more often than every four years.
Why should an organization such as a union, which doesn't represent the
public as a whole, have such influence over the decisions of the government
elected by the majority. Is that democracy?"
Interestingly, the Treasury believes that Democracy means allowing the
elected government officials to make day to day decions, passing legislation
and running the country, without having to gain direct approval of the
public for each decision. However, when it comes to the unions, they have no
qualms in questioning this very same right of the elected union leaders to
make the decisions they were elected to make, without direct approval of the
union voters for each strike.
The radio also had on chairman of the clerical workers' association, Leon
Morozovski, who said of Netanyahu: "There is no doubt that one of the
Finance Minister's goals is to neutralize the workers' ability to defend
themselves. One of the goals of the draft bill is to turn workers into
Treasury considering legislation to ban strikes not approved by union
By Zvi Zrahiya
The Finance Ministry is considering drafting legislation that would ban
strikes in the public sector unless a majority of a union's members approved
the labor action by secret ballot. Currently, strikes can be called by union
executives without any need to consult their memberships.
The proposal was included in a position paper drafted by treasury officials
yesterday that will soon be sent on to Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
for consideration. The treasury believes that such a bill is necessary to
deal with the increasingly severe problem of public-sector strikes. A
similar proposal was submitted to the Knesset as a private member's bill
several months ago by MK Ruhama Avraham (Likud).
According to the treasury proposal, strike votes by union members would be
supervised by a five-member polling committee, with four members chosen by
the workers and one by the employer. A simple majority of those who vote
would be enough to sanction a strike, as long as that majority comprised at
least 45 percent of the union's membership. If a strike does not begin
within 90 days of a vote, a new vote would have to be held.
Any public-sector strike not approved by union members by secret ballot
would be considered illegal, enabling various penalties to be imposed on the
The legislation would also explicitly define strikes as an action against
the strikers' own employer aimed at furthering their own interests. The goal
of this definition is to outlaw "sympathy strikes" by other public-sector
unions or strikes that are aimed at the government in its role as
policy-maker rather than its role as employer. While the proposal would also
permit unions to protest actions taken by the government in its role of
policy-maker if they believe that these actions would negatively affect
their interests, it would limit the types of protest activity permitted, and
strikes would not be one of the permitted methods of protest.
Were employees nevertheless to strike against a government policy decision,
this would be considered a violation of their contract and entitle the
government to impose the standard penalties for contractual violations, up
to and including dismissal.
The proposal would also forbid all public-sector strikes 30 days before
Knesset elections and would ban local authority strikes 30 days before
municipal elections, to prevent strikes from interfering in the democratic
Finally, the proposal would lengthen the waiting period between when a work
dispute is declared and when a strike can begin from the current 15 days to
60 days. In contrast, the waiting period for a lockout would be shortened
from 15 to five days, since in any case public-sector employers can only
legally declare a lockout if the workers are already on strike.
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