All of the 930 employees, 31% of the workforce of Partner Communications, who were on unpaid leave will return to work immediately. The contract under which they will return, the first of its kind in the communications industry, was signed on Thursday, May 14, between the Histadrut labor union, the Partner workers' committee, and company management. Partner employees unionized in 2014 during a wave of unionization of communications companies, including major companies Cellcom and Pelephone. This month, Cellcom appointed a worker to its board of directors per the company’s union negotiations.
The new contract negotiated at Partner includes significant benefits intended to help workers cope with coronavirus-related workplace challenges, including expanding work-from-home options and establishing a vacation time fund to support employees who used their yearly vacation time during the pandemic.
Per the contract, Partner will begin a pilot program whereby all headquarters employees will work from their home one day per week and customer service employees assigned to weekend and evening shifts will be able to work from home. The pilot, which was drafted after Partner management was impressed by successful results and significant employee output during the COVID-19- mandated lockdown, will last for several months, after which management and union representatives will decide whether to extend the policy.
Additionally, the company established a donation fund for vacation days, via which employees who worked from home during the lockdown will be able to donate vacation days to employees who were furloughed and used their allotted vacation days during the partial closure.
The employees' union representatives decided to not hold the company's annual staff trip this year. The budget allocated for this year's trip, approximately NIS 1 million, will be allocated toward a grant that will be distributed to employees who were on unpaid leave during the lockdown. Thanks to the savings measures reached by the parties to the agreement, the company was able to commit to not implement downsizing, layoffs or re-organization until at least the end of the year.
Histadrut Chairman, Arnon Bar-David: "Partner and the Histadrut prove once again that good collective labor relations can result in dialogue and cooperation that yield responsible conduct. COVID-19 posed an unprecedented crisis to Israeli society and its workplaces, but all sides understood that the only path forward from here is up, and signed an agreement that creatively and cleverly copes with the situation forced upon all of us."
Partner CEO, Isaac Benbenisti: "The innovation that characterizes Partner has now come to fruition also in the new management path that we chose due to the successful results produced by the work-from-home conditions that were forced on us by COVID-19, and which we have chosen to continue."
Chairperson of Partner's workers' committee, Keren Ofek: "During an unprecedented economic crisis, we have successfully obtained employment security for all Partner employees. I'm confident that we can, by joining forces, emerge from the crisis into a better and safer future. I have no doubt that we are truly revolutionizing the labor market and will cause many companies in the Israeli economy to follow in our footsteps, to the benefit of their employees."
Chairman of the Histadrut’s Cellular, Internet and Hi-Tech Workers Union, Yaki Halutzi: "Partner will be the first communications company to return all its employees who were on unpaid leave by next week. Equally important is that in the framework of economic efficiency measures, we succeeded in avoiding layoffs in the company."
Vice President of Human Resources and Administration at Partner, Einat Rom: "We will continue to work to ensure employment security for employees while maintaining financial steadfastness, and to be the best workplace in the communications market as published by BDI Coface index."