Report – Condemned to Unemployment: East Jerusalem Women Struggle for Integration into the Labor Market

8)        The Employment Service Helps Sustain Abusive Employment

In 2016 an average of 2,906 EJ women per month attended the EB, which supplied 3,048 job referrals in the course of the year.[21] That is a large number of referrals relative to the 11,000 who are employed in EJ. Thus the EB is a significant conduit for job referrals here, and it bears a great responsibility.

We have learned, however, that a large number of referrals does not indicate a large supply of jobs. In 2016, many women who turned to WAC had been referred to employers who said they had no need for new workers and had not requested any. Nevertheless, on numerous occasions the employer would report to the EB that the worker had refused the job, which would result in the denial of income support for two months—as in the following example.

On September 2, 2015, Rania Julani, whose story appears above, was referred to a company as a cleaner. At the time she was also taking a vocational course to which the Rian Center had referred her and for which the EB was paying her tuition. During the job interview, she was asked repeatedly, in many variations, whether she wanted to work. After answering each time in the affirmative, she was asked about her health. She said that her health was fine and that nothing would hinder her. She was then asked if she had children and if that would impede her. On answering that she does indeed have children but that she wants to work, she was asked whether she is studying. Yes, she said. In that case, said the employer, I conclude that you do not want to work. Julani replied that she wants both to work and study in parallel, so that she can earn a bigger salary one day. The employer answered that he found her unsuitable. A week later the clerk at the EB told her that her benefit was denied because the employer reported that she had said that she prefers to study and not to work. With WAC’s help, Julani then went through months of legal wrangling, until finally the EB erased its classification of refusal.  Much to our regret, the behaviour of the employer in this case is not unusual. In the same period we approached the company in the name of additional jobseekers, male and female, who had received similar treatment. On one occasion the manager even said that in fact they do not need workers at all and had never asked the EB for any.

Despite the fact that much material has been given to the EB about these cases, both in written submissions and via appeals to Appeals Tribunals and the Labor Court, no evidence has reached us that the EB has looked into these cases. The opposite is true: We know that the EB continues to refer women to these employers; there continue to be cases where the employer reports a job refusal while the women claim that it was they who were refused. The EB overwhelmingly sides with the employer, because its official stated position is to assume that the employer has no reason to lie.

Referrals to Abusive Jobs

A job seeker who is referred by the EB does not have the right to question the nature of the work to which she has been referred, without risking the loss of the income support to which she is entitled for two months. This fact, against the background of the deep poverty in EJ, bestows great power on employers, who can exploit jobseekers who are in no position to refuse.

In our experience, as shown by the examples in the present report, the employer’s power is often abused, forcing women to choose between abusive employment or loss of income support. In addition, women often find that despite their efforts to be accepted, employers refuse them; many a time this is wrongly interpreted by the EB as if the woman had refused.

During 2016 many such cases turned up at the WAC office. We had to launch claims and appeals, and we also made written submissions to the EB. The latter refused to examine the behaviour of the employers. Yet our appeals to the Labor Court resulted in the nullification of these refusals even before the hearing. In effect, the nullification prevented a fundamental examination of the phenomenon and the issues involved. Attorney Emanuel Weill from the legal department of the EB, in response to an application, refused to address the issue, claiming that WAC had no right to raise a complaint on the matter. His position tallies with clarifications by the EB spokesperson, who said, “The Service does not conduct inspections of employers,” claiming it was not in its jurisdiction unless there was an accumulation of claims at the EB Ombudsman’s office which had been adjudicated as justified.

This policy, whether it is legal or supported by a lenient interpretation of the law, provides fertile ground for abusive employers to exploit a cheap and vulnerable labor force.

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