Last week, former MK Ayelet Shaked published an article claiming that unionization, and particularly the Histadrut, are hampering the growth of Israel's economy, and called for restrictions on workers' legal right to strike. This is Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar David's response to Shaked:
Recent years have seen a rise in union power in Israel, and this seems to scare former minister, MK Ayelet Shaked. That is the reason that she is calling for limiting the power of organized labour and weakening the labour courts system. According to her, the thing that is hindering the economic growth is the workers and the Histadrut. But the truth is very far from that. The developed countries organization, the OECD, whom Shaked quotes in her article in order to excoriate the Histadrut, published two weeks ago a comprehensive report that displays in detail in 270 pages the positive effect that the organized labour has on high employment, high productivity and low inequality.
The report, which analyzed evidence from 36 countries which are members in the organization, determined that organized labour and collective bargaining are a driving force to achieve growth in the economy whose fruits reach most of the population, and not just the narrow groups that Shaked acts on their behalf.
Shaked works hard to transfer the taxes that are collected from all the workers in the economy to the Halachic state that she and her extreme friends want to force on Israeli citizens. The systematic incitement campaign that she is conducting against "the home of the workers" is her way of extracting another headline in an attempt to save herself from a political crash.
The work world is changing rapidly, and while the Histadrut is adapting itself and raising flags of innovation, efficiency and the improvement of service – there are factors who want to keep us in the past. The demagogic arguments that Shaked presents in her opinion column are intended to throw dust in the public's eyes and are mainly based on an old and problematic image of the organization, which doesn't have any connection to the essence of the Histadrut today.
While ten of thousand of workers per year, from all the sectors and professions, continue to join the Histadrut, Shaked tries to gather votes by inciting against the unionized workers. And who are the unionized workers that she wants to weaken? The bus driver who drives you to work, the nurse who vaccinates our children in the health maintenance organizations, and the firefighters in the firefighting system who risk their lives to save our lives.
These are 800,000 workers, who are represented today by the Histadrut.
Blaming the people driving the wheels of the economy and treating workers like numbers in tables must immediately cease. The workers are not the enemy.
The delusional demand to promote cumbersome and multi-risk legislation at the workers' expense, with the argument that it will make order in the economy, is contrary to what is happening today in developed countries. The OECD proved that organized labour is a more accurate and flexible tool than legislation, which is most suited to regulating the future labor market.
An example from the hi-tech industry. While SAP was forced this year to cut 4,000 jobs around the world, the employees' committee of the company in Israel, with the support of the Cellular, Internet & Hi-Tech Workers Union in the Histadrut, signed an agreement with the management which prevented the dismissal of the workers. Instead of that, SAP Israel has agreed to give a few dozen employees, who are interested in it, the opportunity to voluntarily retire under improved conditions. In addition, the Histadrut's involvement in the crisis that broke out in the cellular sector, following hard regulation and lack of national investment in infrastructure, achieved the required balance to prevent mass dismissal of hundreds of workers on the eve of the holiday.
In the past year, the Histadrut was a partner to significant reforms in the economy – reforms that improve the services to the citizens and benefit the economy. For example, the historic agreement that was signed with Mekorot will help improve and promote the water sector in Israel. The agreement that was signed to regulate the transition conditions of the Sea Department's activity in Haifa Port is an important step in the reform that will enable fair competition in the port system.
These agreements, similar to many other collective agreements, took shape thanks to the understanding that changes for the benefit of the economy must be made in agreement and respectable dialogue with the workers. The desire to trample this dialogue, or to attribute a nature of extortion to it, stems from foreign interests that don't have any connection to economic growth.
Speaking of growth, and contrary to Shaked's claims, in a comparison that OECD did between the countries, to examine the relation between the rate of organizational coverage and the GDP, it found that there is a positive relationship between the rate of unionized people in the country and the product per person. In other words: more unionized people – more product.
The Histadrut who will soon enter into its one hundredth year, will do so as a strong and responsible body. Despite the changes that occurred to its image and position since it was established, today it is one of the most significant bodies for the economy. The Histadrut was the one who took care of the mandatory pension allocation, shortening the work week, raising the minimum wage and many other achievements that we succeeded to promote in dialogue with the employers, and without one day of strike in the economy.
Precisely in a tumultuous political year, like the one we had, the understanding became clearer, that governments come and go but there is one home that stays to take care of everyone! For left-wing and right-wing, for youths and pensioners, for Jews and non-Jews, for the center and the periphery. The Histadrut is the home of the workers in Israel. Its power is in the working people who are tied tightly to the values that the country was built on. In solidarity and with mutual guarantee, we will continue to serve the public and will operate with greater vigor to protect the workers and pensioners from those who want to take from them.