WAC-MAAN: A call to stop intervention of the police in the labour dispute at Zarfati Garage

<p>WAC-MAAN National Director Assaf Adiv to Att. Shlomo Yitzhaki, Commissioner of Labour Relations, Israel Ministry of Economy</p>

WAC-MAAN National Director Assaf Adiv to Att. Shlomo Yitzhaki, Commissioner of Labour Relations, Israel Ministry of Economy

I wish to inform you and the Department of Labour Relations about the blatant involvement of the Ma’ale Adumim police in a labour dispute at Y. Zarfati Garage (Mishor Adumim industrial zone).

The background is a strike that was announced by our union WAC-MAAN at the Zarfati Garage on July 22, 2014, in response to an attempt by the owners to dismiss the Chairperson of the Workers Committee, Hatem Abu Ziadeh, and to stop negotiations on a collective agreement.  As the owners brought in new workers to break the strike, WAC-MAAN filed a request for a collective dispute in the Jerusalem Labour Court. On July 27 this appeal was discussed in the court, with the owners, the union, and the workers attending.

In court the Garage raised new accusations toward Abu Ziadeh. Although it had started the dismissal procedure against him with claims that related to reorganization of the garage and his unsuitability for the job (after 15 years!), on July 10 it accused him of sabotaging a military vehicle which he had been appointed to repair. Yet 11 days earlier he had been given a letter of dismissal with no mention of these grave charges! Abu Ziadeh was also accused of threatening workers during the strike.

Because these accusations were made with no evidence from the security authorities, and because the Labour Court is in no position to deal with such issues, the Judge gave the Zarfati Garage 72 hours to submit proof or drop these charges. In this context, the Garage filed a formal appeal to the Ma’ale Adumim police. The Police summoned Abu Ziadeh to a an interrogation on July 31, after which he was freed on bail of NIS 1000. His entry visa to the Industrial Area was denied—a move that amounts to dismissal.

The Police then started a serious of interventions at the Garage that amounted to blatant intervention in the labour dispute. On Tuesday, August 5, they arrived and summoned for questioning workers who had struck two weeks before. This was the second police visit, after one on Thursday, July 31, when six employees were detained for questioning. On that occasion they were asked about only one topic:  Why did you decide to strike? Did the union, and especially Abu Ziadeh, threaten you during the strike?

This involvement of the police creates an atmosphere of intimidation in the ranks of the workers, although founded on the employers’ baseless complaint against Abu Ziadeh.

It should also be noted that during the strike, police dispersed the picket line and detained WAC-MAAN activists. Ironically, on those occasions it was WAC-MAAN that had summoned the police, after the strikers were threatened with violence by members of the Manufacturers Committee of Mishor Adumim.

Attorney Michal Pomeranz, who represents Abu Ziadeh, appealed against the denial of his entry permit to the Industrial Zone. In her letter to the Civil Administration Labour Affairs Officer, Yitzhak Levy, Att. Pomeranz said that the complaint against Abu Ziadeh is quite clearly a false one, in view of the timing, as the Garage wanted to dismiss him for procedural reasons and only later brought up the security charges. She claims that the charges did not justify the denial of his entry permit, which results in severe damage to his income. While the police can investigate Abu Ziadeh, this in itself, says Pomeranz, is no ground for denying him a permit to work at the garage. Att. Pomeranz called on the Israeli Authorities to stop punishing Abu Ziadeh and to give him back his permit so that he can continue working in the Garage.

In view of the complex reality in the industrial area, where Israeli employers and Palestinians work side by side, action is required by the Department of Labour Relations to clarify to employers and police the boundaries of the law, as well as their duty to respect the right of all workers, including Palestinians, to form unions of their choice without interference and intimidation.

Your intervention is required to stop the current attempt to thwart the organizing of workers by means of false complaints to the police. This attempt results in the denial of permits for Palestinian workers. In practice that means the denial of their constitutional right to organize.

Please let me know if and when you plan to act on this matter.

אודות Assaf Adiv