In view of the campaign against the workers by Israel’s right-wing government, WAC-MAAN’s annual General Assembly will discuss the organization’s strategy for the next year. In contrast with the Histadrut chairperson, who continues conservative policy of defending an exclusive group of highly paid workers, WAC-MAAN opens a new approach to confronting the government and the establishment, protecting the unorganized and the poor: Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, and demanding along with workers and youth of the entire region, from Tahrir to Taksim, social justice for all.
The annual General Assembly of the WAC-MAAN workers’ association is about to convene for the 14th time in June 2013. The emphasis will be on expanding our organization among Jewish and Arab workers. Attending will be representatives of workers’ committees that have organized during last year, including truck drivers, agricultural female workers, construction and industrial workers, and college teachers.
Our task is challenging, given that the government, established in March 2013 by the political and economic right-wing parties, is acting to pass an anti-social budget and planning a general attack on organized labor. At the same time, this explicitly right-wing government is intensifying the tension in the region, blocking progress towards peace, and increasing animosity and racism.
The difficulty is heightened by the fact that there is no consistent political and social opposition in the Knesset. In the past few weeks, however, we have witnessed a lot of public rage against the government, especially concerning the drastic budget cuts. The rage has brought protesters back to the streets after two years of stagnation. New groups of workers are joining WAC-MAAN as well as other workers’ organizations. This indicates the growing awareness among many people in Israel of the brutal attack on living standards and workers’ rights that is expected in the coming years. The injury to wages, working conditions, and employment security is not confined to the non-professional and uneducated labor force. Outsourcing and privatization continue as a trend in municipalities, government services, schools, colleges and hospitals, as well as in high-tech.
Israel is not Egypt, and the workers here are far better off than our Palestinian peers beyond the separation barrier. But today the workers in Egypt, Palestine, and Israel have more in common than they have differences. More Israelis are being shunted into part-time jobs or unemployment. They are forced to labor long hours without employment security. In order to change this reality, a dynamic trade union is needed.
Unfortunately, this is not the message broadcast by the chairperson of the New Histadrut, Ofer Eini. Rather than confronting the Netanyau-Lapid- Bennet government and combating its offensive against the workers, Eini is trying to reach understandings with that government, aiming to prevent any suffering on the part of his own power centers. The agreement that was reached between Eini and Treasury Minister Lapid on May 9, 2013 was an attempt to draw fire away from the major unions that Eini relies on and aim it instead at the wider population of those who work for minimum wages and with no rights. This is the same public of poor non-organized workers that the Histadrut abandoned long ago. Eini also supports the government’s aggressive and racist agenda, which injures the chances for citizens of Israel and the entire region to progress towards a life of prosperity and peace.