If May Day began as a struggle over working hours and continued over the right of workers to organize, today it is taking on a new look. The struggle for the right to organize goes on, and only in the last two months has the world been exposed to the just endeavor of Amazon workers over their demand to form a union. Alongside this, there exists an emerging effort of modern workers in a modern, technological, and global market. It is the struggle for the right of workers to enjoy the benefits of capital that companies and businesses regularly enjoy, sometimes even those under foreign and international ownership.

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As the markets recover in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, while the Israeli economy is rebuilding following the slowdown and a return to growth, there are significant moves to sell large companies in the Israeli economy, such as Partner. In addition, costs are being transferred in the financial market and acquisitions in the insurance market.

These deals are leading to a renewed challenge in labor relations. While we hear about dividends being distributed to shareholders or a “golden parachute,”’ or lucrative severance packages for executives on termination in the event of replacing senior officials, it is apparent that compensation to workers themselves in the sale of companies is not yet guaranteed.

This is despite the fact that as part of the transaction, not only physical assets are being handed over, but in particular human capital, rich in knowledge and experience, which has a significant part in the success of the company and the development of its reputation. Hence, in every business acquisition, the expertise and professionalism of the employees must also be expressed in the form of rewards to the employees for improving the company to the point of sale viability.

The new reality in today’s global market shows that growth in the Israeli economy is not yet in line with the labor market in these industries. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, workers were required to “pull their weight” and “show solidarity” as a result of the slowdown in the economy.

It was not obvious that an employee would volunteer at the height of the pandemic and work from home, thus contributing to their employer's business in these days of uncertainty. It was not clear that workers would refrain from sanctions or strikes amid changes in terms of employment resulting from the reality of the pandemic. But in the new era, workers see themselves as fully responsible for the company in which they work, and would not act against it in a time of crisis.

Employees see the same responsibility and partnership when discussing the sale of the company. The success of a company is the sum of its parts, not just of the owner and management. It is the whole array of human capital that makes up the company. The employees are the ones who brought it to fruition, neither the executives nor the infrastructure. But somehow, the weight carried by the workers in a time of crisis, the responsibility and solidarity they have reflected, does not automatically make them entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

This partnership, which is a fundamental partnership, cannot be a matter of convenience on the part of the employer. A fundamental partnership is a motto. The idea behind it is interdependence, even if the values of both parties, employer and employee  do not always overlap. But when a company is ripe for purchase, and it catches the interest of prospective buyers and is eventually sold, and ownership transferred – here too the partnership is tested. Even here, just like in a time of crisis, everyone without exception must enjoy the products of the partnership.

But it isn’t just about money. In the modern labor market, there is also social responsibility, especially when it comes to a large company or organization, which employs hundreds or thousands of employees. When speaking of a fundamental partnership, which is not just a financial partnership – there is room to bring about a diverse absorption of employees. If in the past there was talk of gender equality, today the commitment to the community is to absorb contract workers, or a commitment to employ workers with disabilities or create a comfortable work environment for people with diverse sexual orientations.

The duty of the Israeli economy is not only to be a startup nation but also to strengthen social resilience through the labor market.

Keren Ofek is the chairperson of the Partner Worker’s Committee.

This article was translated from Hebrew by Jonathan Epstein.