Israel - Attempts to organise rebuffed (2012)

Several attempts by workers in different sectors to organise and form a union were rejected by their employers leading to lawsuits by Histadrut - General Federation of Labour in Israel. In August, Histadrut HaOvdim HaLeumit (The National Histadrut) announced its plans to sue the Steimatzky bookstore chain for improper and illegal interference in employees’ efforts to unionise. Earlier management had accused the union of forging union membership forms and using company email accounts during the organising process. However, the union claims that workers had complained of measures by management to derail organising.

On 20 November, about 20 technicians of “HOT Telecom” were summoned to hearings prior to being dismissed. This was following a demonstration they held that morning in front of the company’s head offices. The protest came about after management had refused to recognise a workers’ committee that had been formed by about 700 technicians from the company. Management had also tried to work with small groups of workers in order to avoid negotiating with the committee. Previously, the workers had formed the committee and joined Histadrut in reaction to recent company outsourcing and unilateral changes in contracts and working hours. The union then tried to negotiate a collective agreement over employment conditions. However, management announced that it did not recognise the organising and at the same time began to summon workers and get them to sign a form cancelling their Histadrut membership. Histadrut submitted a lawsuit in December to the Labour Court against the management for violating labour law.

In 2011, Histadrut submitted several cases to the labour courts against the Machsani Hashmal chain. The first was in January concerning the humiliation of and threats against workers who had attempted to organise at the company. Despite this legal initiative, management continued to try to intimidate workers and threaten organisers. Histadrut then filed a second case against the management of the parent company, Yaki Vadmeni, CEO of Electra Consumer Products, the umbrella company of the Machsani Hashmal chain, who had sent a letter to workers stating that their membership of Histadrut was against the law. Earlier, the Deputy General Manager of Marketing had telephoned the chair of the Workers’ Action Committee and threatened him against continuing with an ongoing organising initiative.

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