“Security” as a pretext against unionizing

<p>When the Zarfati garage became wary of the workers’ committee chairperson, they simply framed him using nationalist claims. They brought in the Civil Administration and the police, then sent him to military court.</p>

Even today, years after the High Court ruling, the Justice Ministry is struggling to “diminish the disparities in the field of labor law between workers from the Judea and Samaria region [the West Bank] and workers in Israel, in the framework of security legislation.”

The Economics Ministry explained in response that “The High Court Givat-Zeev case [the 2007 ruling] created a cause of action for a Palestinian worker to submit claims against his Israeli employer. However, it did not grant enforcement authority; it did not rule in favor of the sweeping application of aspects of labor law which are criminal or grant enforcement authority – not even the authority to impose monetary sanctions… The disparity this creates is indeed a distortion. This distortion is one of the reasons why the government and army are making increased efforts to apply all labor law to these areas, through security legislation applicable to Judea and Samaria. This work [legislation] is prepared and almost completed, but the upcoming elections have delayed it. Its completion and the signing of an order will be done, it seems, when the new government has been formed.”

What the official bodies are actually saying is that no decision on this issue has been made by the government. Even if a decision will be taken, it is not clear how it will change the current situation in which there is ostensibly minimal protection for workers (in the form of the minimum wage) but in practice there is no enforcement.

There’s a war? Let’s fire him

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Meanwhile, negotiations between the workers and the Zarfati garage proceeded at snail’s pace. About once every two months the sides met, and the workers, together with WAC-MAAN representatives, tried to reach an understanding on wage issues and past debts.

Then last July, Operation Protective Edge began and Zarfati decided the time had come to dismiss Abu Ziadeh and step up the pressure on the workers.

On July 21, Abu Ziadeh – who during 17 years of working at the garage had never had any claims leveled against him, whether security-related or work-related – was summoned for pre-dismissal hearings. In the letter he received, the reason given for the hearing was “changes to the firm’s employment set-up and your unsuitability to the firm’s needs.” WAC-MAAN quickly submitted an appeal at the labor court against the dismissal of the workers’ committee chair.

In the court hearing held a week later (on July 27), the garage owner, Morris Zarfati, made completely new claims against Abu Ziadeh which were quite marvelously in keeping with the public mood during the days of war. Zarfati told the court that the dismissal decision was taken because Abu Ziadeh had “participated in political demonstrations, he is an extreme leftwing activist who called for the end of the Israeli occupation, threatened other workers” and even “sabotaged a military vehicle which was being repaired at the garage” some two weeks earlier.

Since Zarfati’s claims were not supported by any documentation and were not referred to in the letter summoning him to the dismissal hearing, but were raised out of the blue in court, the judge granted Zarfati 72 hours to come up with evidence for his claims, and ruled that if no such evidence were forthcoming the garage would have to hold a hearing as required by law. The appeal submitted to the High Court claimed that “Contrary to what they said during the court proceedings, the Zarfati managers did not contact the security services,” and noted that it was only a day after the court hearing that the garage manager submitted a complaint with the Maaleh Adumim police against Abu Ziadeh, which included the accusations that they had raised at court.

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