Protest carried on national TV
Contract postal workers storm Histadruth union HQ
Up to one hundred contract typists from for the Israeli postal service ’Do`ar Israel’, along with Maavak Sotzialisti (CWI) members, and other activists, protested outside the headquarters of the Histadruth trade union federation, in Tel Aviv, yesterday.
The reason for the protest was the workers’ deep anger and disgust at the role of the Histadrut leadership’s betrayal of their struggle. The workers are fighting for permanent job status, an end to sweatshop conditions and against bullying by management, who refer to workers as "retards".
Both Israeli Jewish and Arabs are part of the workforce. Many of them have been on temporary contracts for up to 15 years, as is increasingly the case for many Israeli workers, employed by profit-hungry, exploitative manpower agencies. These workers are paid according to how many letters they process rather than by the hours they work. Most of the workers bring home around NIS 3000 (€545), a month. The official minimum wage in Israel is NIS 3585 (€650), which does not even cover basic food and accommodation costs.
The Histadrut trade union federation always claimed to be against manpower agencies, which now employ up to 10% of Israeli workers. However, they have not organised a serious struggle against them. Even worse, the Histadrut signed an agreement with the manpower agencies three years ago which takes a percentage out of the salary of every contract workers in the country. This applies to these postal workers as well but they are not even recognised as full members of the Histadrut. The present leader of the Histadrut, Ofer Eyni, promised the federation would fight for permanent status for the postal service workers. However, the Histadrut did nothing to fulfil its promise. The Histadrut leadership made a deal, last year, with the postal service management, which stipulates workers would not be recognised as permanent staff, if any legal action for recognition was taken out by the workforce.
The workers, many of them women, overcame their fear of being sacked for taking part in a protest during work-time, and decided to take their struggle to the plush headquarters of the Histadruth trade union bureaucracy.
Union leader hides in office
A big crowd of workers gathered outside the Histadrut headquarters, chanting slogans, "The Histadrut is the home of the workers but Eyni’s clique is ruining it!" and "For a Histadrut of workers not of go-getters". After a short time, workers’ anger boiled over, and they marched into the building to demand a meeting with Eyni. The massive doors to Eyni’s office were locked and the workers were told that he was not in the building. There were unconfirmed rumours that he was in fact in the building but did not want to meet the workers.
Another Histadrut leader, Jihad Akel, who is an Israeli Arab member of the Communist Party organisation, Hadash, came out to speak to the protesters. Hadash is part of the coalition leading the Histadrut. Akel said he supported their struggle and rejected the manpower agencies. But he gave full support to the Histadrut leader Eyni. The workers had heard all this before and chanted "Eyni – a traitor. Do workers not count?"
Akel accused the workers of turning up at Histadrut headquarters under the instruction of the mail service management. Incredibly, when one of the Israeli Arab postal workers protested against this smear, he was told to shut up by the Hisradrut leader.
The workers demanded more than just empty promises of action. After a while, the Histadrut leadership promised to have a series of meetings with the workers to discuss a campaign to wing them permanent job status.
Yesterday’s protest at the Histadrut headquarters got favourable cover on the main evening TV news. Further protests are planned.
The contract postal service workers are extremely exploited and face a vicious management. Maavak Sotzialisti (CWI) appeals to trade union activists and socialists around the world to urgently send solidarity messages to firstname.lastname@example.org