A significant achievement for delegates opposing privatization and cuts was recorded on Tuesday, April 9, when the conference of the social workers’ union in Israel elected members of the secretariat and seven standing committees of the union.
Suheir Daska, member of Socialist Struggle Movement, was elected by delegates from Haifa and the Northern District, for one of the 16 elected positions in the secretariat, along with seven members of the progressive movement of social workers, ‘Atideinu’ (Our Future), and Tami Farber, from the ‘Social Workers’ Struggle Forum’. Together they constitute a significant strengthening of the union’s left-wing forces.
Long-standing members of the union do not remember an election with so many candidates, almost 90% of the elected delegates came to vote. This reflects the continuous struggle for the future direction of the union.
Protest of social workers. At the loudspeaker, Suheir Daska, member of Socialist Struggle Movement
Previously, the elections of the delegates to the conference by the rank and file, on January 29, also saw significant achievements for the candidates who challenged the current leadership of the union on the basis of demands for democratic reforms, for principled, firm struggle for improvements in wages, and against budget cuts and privatization.
Suheir Daksa Halabi and Naama Levin both social workers and members of the SSM ran a joint campaign, introducing a program of 15 demands for democratic change in the union and to prepare for the future struggle for higher wages and against the coming austerity measures.
Among others, they demanded that any future labor agreement should be voted by the thousands of union members before signing. They called for the establishment of a headquarters from where the struggle can be coordinated of all the workers’ organizations against the austerity measures and privatization, and to fight for the nationalization of privatized welfare services, which should be managed in a democratic manner. They also called for the end of the racist discrimination in budget and workforce allocations to Palestinian-Arab towns and communities.
Significantly, Suheir was elected on the basis of these principles after facing other well-known candidates, as a representative of the social workers in the welfare departments in the Arab municipalities in the north.
Towards the next struggle
Over the last three decades, the welfare services have been deliberately underfunded, with wide scale privatizations by different neo-liberal capitalist governments. The workload has increased year after year, and the ridiculously low number of social workers cannot meet the real needs on the ground, in light of the increasing poverty and social distress. The absurdly low salaries have been eroded further throughout the last decade, and workers in the privatized sectors suffer from lack of social security and employment.
The militant social workers’ struggle in 2011 didn’t achieve its goals as it was sold-out by the head of Histadrut (the biggest union federation in Israel) and the conservative leadership of the social workers’ union. Now the union has to prepare to fight the coming austerity measures, as well as the attacks on organized labor. At the same time, it must demand vital improvements in working conditions and salaries.
At the end of April, the union will convene for its first meeting with its newly-elected leadership, and on June 12 another conference will be held. To start preparing for the struggle against the new government plans, Suheir will put forward a resolution calling for the establishment of a headquarters from where the struggle of all workers’ unions, student organizations and social organizations can be coordinated, against all the government cuts and attacks on the agenda.
Suiher explains: "In this period, the government plans to cut child allowances, wages of public-sector workers, including that of social workers, but also to impose austerity measures that would directly harm the working class and the poor and intensify the burden on social services that are already collapsing. The need to organize the workers on the ground for struggle and to turn the union into a democratic and fighting tool of the workers to defend workers’ interests - that’s critical decisive."
The results of the election for the union conference and the secretariat show the potential for real change in the union. For that to happen there is a necessity to hold meetings and discussions in the workplaces and the union. And there is an urgent need for collaboration of all the dedicated delegates for change in the union around a common strategy that will pave the way for the victories in the upcoming struggles.
To read more about the coming attacks and the proposals of the Socialist Struggle Movement how to fight back, see also: “There is a future” – of cuts, racism and resistance