Following MAAN’s petition, Israeli Interior Ministry’s Payments Section has stopped deducting service fees from the wages of Palestinian workers. The fees were paid to the Histadrut since 1970 and to Histadrut Leumit since 2019

Summary: In February 2020, MAAN Workers Association, in cooperation with Kav LaOved, filed a petition with the National Labor Court against the Payments Section (henceforth Matash) in the Ministry of […]

Summary: In February 2020, MAAN Workers Association, in cooperation with Kav LaOved, filed a petition with the National Labor Court against the Payments Section (henceforth Matash) in the Ministry of the Interior. The petition concerned two kinds of fees: union membership fees and service fees; the latter are fees charged to non-union members who benefit from collective agreements made between a union and a company or on the level of an industrial branch. Our petition demanded an end to discrimination between Trade Unions, and specifically an end to the refusal by Matash to recognize MAAN with regard to the deduction of union membership fees. It also demanded an end to a 50-year-old practice of deducting service fees from the salaries of those Palestinian workers who are not covered by a collective agreement and thus should not pay any fees. In response to the petition Matash has announced a cessation of all deductions from Palestinian workers, and at MAAN’s request, the petition has been withdrawn.

Following a government decision in 1970, dozens of shekels have been deducted monthly from the salary of every Palestinian worker in Israel (0.75% of gross salary) and transferred to the General Histadrut as under the name “Service Fees”.

Many of these workers were employed in branches or in companies where there are no collective agreements, so there was no legal basis for deduction of the service fees. Roughly speaking, the amount transferred from the pockets of about 70,000 Palestinian workers to the Histadrut every month has amounted to NIS 3.5 million in recent years, and on an annual basis – over NIS 40 million (ca. $12 million).

Palestinian workers in Rajwan Food Co. in Atarot joined MAAN in September 2019 but continued to pay service fee to Histadrut until May 2020 when the Payment Authority stopped deducting fees as a response to MAAN petition to court

After the Oslo Accords, the Histadrut reached an agreement with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), whereby it transferred part of the amount to it. But the bottom line was that Palestinian workers paid significant sums of money supposedly for union protection and received nothing in return. The Palestinian unions have no legal standing to represent them in Israel, and until recently, the Histadrut did not admit Palestinians as members. Nor did it ever try to organize them or to give them legal and union aid. This injustice has stood out blatantly in recent years when the media exposed serious accidents suffered by Palestinian construction workers who received no protection or medical care from the Hisatadrut, although they had all paid fees to it.

Matash expanded the deduction of fees from Palestinian workers in February 2019, also allowing deductions for the National Histadrut, which is affiliated with the Likud. In view of the change, MAAN demanded that Matash do the same for it, i.e., allow MAAN members at several companies in the Atarot Industrial Zone to transfer the fees to MAAN. Ignoring the demand, Matashwent on deducting the service fees from these workers even after they joined MAAN, and sending them to the General Histadrut – in violation of the law.

Following this refusal by Matash, which amounted to clear discrimination between unions, as well as a violation of the rights of workers whose service fees were illegally deducted, a petition was filed with the National Labour Court in February 2020. The petition had two components: first, to enable MAAN’s members to pay dues to the organization representing them; secondly, to stop deducting service fees from the salaries of Palestinians and transferring the money to the General Histadrut when there is no legal basis. The General Histadrut, the National Histadrut, and Koakh La’Ovdim (Power to the Workers) were named by MAAN as formal respondents, that is, as parties that might be harmed by the result of the petition.

In response to the petition and even before the court hearing, Matash announced in May 2020 that it was temporarily suspending the deduction of fees from all Palestinian workers. At a hearing held in July 2020, the court suggested that the parties hold consultations to find a solution that would be agreed upon by the various unions and Matash.

In a subsequent consultation, representatives of the General and National Histadruts proposed that the deduction of service fees from all employees be transferred as a single package to the General Histadrut, which in turn would transfer the funds to the other unions, which would report on the workers joining their ranks. MAAN rejected the proposal and thus prevented it. Our rejection was because it gave a stamp of approval to the practice of deducting service fees from thousands of workers illegally.

In the absence of agreement between the parties, Matash announced in September 2020 that it would stop collecting the fees altogether. Under these circumstances, MAAN announced that the petition had become superfluous and asked to remove it. Subsequently, in a court hearing on November 30, the President of the National Labour Court, Justice Varda Wirt Livneh, acceded to MAAN’s request and removed the petition. Thus was buried an improper arrangement that had existed for fifty years, and good riddance. It is a great achievement in MAAN’s struggle to transform the tens of thousands of Palestinian workers employed in Israel from invisible people without rights to equal workers whose rights are safeguarded, including the right to join a union of their choice.

אודות Wac-Maan