The Tel Aviv Labor Court has ruled that the Art College Minshar and its director, Oded Yedaya, must pay WAC-MAAN NIS 50,000 as compensation for harming the workers’ attempt to organize through the union and for conducting negotiations in bad faith.
Judge Keren Cohen of the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court , produced a decision, dated January 26, 2015, which ruled that WAC-MAAN is the representative workers’ organization at the MinsharCollege for Art. The Judge ruled also that Minshar director, Oded Yedaya, acted illegally to prevent workers organizing and conducted negotiations in bad faith, therefore ordered the College to pay compensation of NIS 50,000 to WAC-MAAN.
WAC was represented in this case by attorneys Moran Savorai and Amir Basha of the Benny Cohen Law Offices, and Atty. Aya Bartenstein, WAC-MAAN’s legal advisor. Minshar and Oded Yedaya were represented by Atty. Nahum Feinberg and Atty. David Moshe.
Background: In June of 2012, over 80 teachers at Minshar joined WAC-MAAN, and negotiations began between the elected workers’ committee, WAC-MAAN and Minshar director Oded Yedaya. But throughout the negotiations (over a year and a half) Yedaya acted to separate the workers from their union by sending out threatening email messages and holding meetings in which he tried persuade teachers to leave MAAN, while deliberately procrastinating with the negotiations.
In January 2014, after a year and a half of negotiations and after the sides reached a nearly full draft agreement, Yedaya announced he had reached the conclusion that WAC no longer constitutes the representative workers’ organization and refused to sign the collective agreement.
On this background, WAC and the Minshar teachers’ committee announced a labor dispute and in May 2014 submitted a collective petition with the Labor Court asking to recognize it as the representative organization at the College, to order Minshar to negotiate with it in good faith; and requiring that Minshar pay compensation for illegal injurious conduct with the goal of dismantling initial workers’ organization.
Among the Court’s rulings regarding initial organizing:
1. The decisive date for determining representative status is the date on which the workers’ organization’s notice of representative status was handed to the employer. Non-submission of the enrollment forms on that same date does not injure the organization’s representative status.
2. The passing of time between notice of the organization’s representative status and submitting the request to the court does not cancel the organization’s representative status, especially when the workers’ organization acts consistently to advance negotiations and address workers’ grievances on an ongoing basis.
3. The ruling states that there is no doubt that the notices of workers canceling their membership, sent in the initial stage of organizing, were made on the basis of direct or indirect pressure from the employer, and that Minshar acted to prevent the organizing effort and convince workers to cancel their membership in WAC, which is a clear breach of the law.
4. The ruling states that an employer who does not recognize the representative status of a union must give explicit notice of this, and that Minshar presented WAC MAAN with a false pretense of acting to compile agreements that would hold for all workers, when in practice their conduct was intended to exhaust the union and the workers and cause the representative status to dissipate.
5. The ruling additionally states that once recognized as a representative organization, Minshar is required to negotiate with WAC for a collective agreement in good faith and in the court’s words: “Conducting negotiations with an aim of not compiling a collective agreement but with the intention of anchoring understandings in a document that would not obligate all workers undermines the foundations of collective labor law, and contradicts in essence collective labor relations.”
This is an important ruling, which bans any involvement of the employer in the workers’ organizing effort, and any attempt by the employer to create an atmosphere of intimidation and harming the organizing effort so as to prevent workers from realizing their legal right to organize.