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Gil Bar-Tal Reelected Chair of Public Service Workers’ Union: “We Will Continue to Make Workplaces Equitable”

At the union’s conference, 551 delegates unanimously reelected Bar-Tal | Histadrut Chair Arnon Bar-David: ‘Let’s move mountains together and fix the state of Israel”

יו"ר ההסתדרות ארנון בר-דוד (במרכז) ויו"ר הסתדרות המעו"ף גיל בר טל (משמאל) בוועידת הסתדרות המעוף (צילום: ניצן צבי כהן)
Histadrut Chair Arnon Bar-David (center) and UCAPSE Chair Gil Bar-Tal (left) at the UCAPSE conference, May 30, 2024. (Picture: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)
By Nizzan Zvi Cohen

Late last month, Gil Bar-Tal was elected to a second term as chairman of the Union of Clerical, Administrative, and Public Service Employees (UCAPSE). UCAPSE is the largest union in the Histadrut, Israel’s general federation of labor unions, representing more than 300,000 workers ranging from firefighters to bankers to kindergarten assistants. The 541 delegates representing active members and 10 representatives of retired members unanimously voted to elect Bar-Tal, who was the only candidate for the position.

Bar-Tal thanked the members of the conference for their trust in him. “When I was first elected head of UCAPSE in May 2019, we could not have imagined what awaited us during the following five years—the years of COVID-19, military operations, terrorism and war with an inexpressible amount of evil and cruelty. At this historic time, the backing and resilience that the Histadrut gave to both the workers and the workplace, was instrumental in finding creative solutions, returning the wheels of the economy to work and preventing harm to workers,” he said.

UCAPSE Chair Gil Bar-Tal speaks at the UCAPSE conference after being elected to a second term, May 30th, 2024. (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)
UCAPSE Chair Gil Bar-Tal speaks at the UCAPSE conference after being elected to a second term, May 30th, 2024. (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)

He noted that in his tenure, the union has successfully reached dozens of collective agreements to improve working conditions and wages.

He also promoted a vision of inclusive and equitable workplaces for “Israeli society in all its diversity—men and women, Jews and Arabs, workers from all ethnicities, the LGBT community and accessible work for workers with disabilities.” “I welcome the increase in the number of female union members and committee chairs who are women. Progress is also being made in Arab society, in cooperation with our fellow committee leaders, hand in hand to create a diverse and pluralistic society,” he said.

Bar-Tal said that UCAPSE’s work is based on partnerships with different bodies of the Histadrut, including bodies devoted to professional development, health, retirement benefits, consumers’ rights, and banking.

The UCAPSE conference began with a call for the return of the hostages held in Gaza, for the safety of the security forces, for the healing of the wounded, and for the protection of workers in all fields who continue to work during the war to maintain routine life and the economy. The conference was moderated by journalist Almog Boker, who shared his story of experiencing the Hamas invasion on October 7 in Kibbutz Zikim, where he lives.

UCAPSE Director General Amichai Satinger, who also serves as director general of the Histadrut’s Division of Labor Unionization, presented the conference's resolutions, including resolutions related to resolving labor relations disputes through negotiations, continuing to make education accessible to employees, promoting innovation in labor relations, reducing contract employment and other abusive forms of employment designed to weaken workers and reduce the power of organized labor, continued integration of retirees into clubs and UCAPSE activities, and promoting equality in the workplace for all workers regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Among other workers, UCAPSE represents workers in local government, commerce, banks, credit and insurance, emergency services, government-owned companies, religious councils and municipal corporations, and national organizations and public institutions such as the Jewish National Fund and the World Zionist Organization. It also includes Clalit Health Services workers, agricultural school workers, and sports workers. It was established as the Clerical Union in 1919.

Histadrut Chair Arnon Bar-David congratulated Bar-Tal on his election to a second term. “In the past five years, the most complicated period for the Israeli economy, you have fulfilled your role in the best possible way. You knew how to take advantage of your legal abilities and broad knowledge. I know that UCAPSE is in safe and professional hands. I know what material you draw from and what your abilities are. Let’s move mountains together and fix the State of Israel.”

Bar-David congratulated the workers in the audience, especially those from emergency services, health care, and local councils near Israel’s borders, and celebrated UCAPSE accomplishments such as the reduction of the workweek to 40 hours from 42 hours.

In a recorded message, Israeli President Isaac Herzog also congratulated Bar-Tal. “Your election reflects both how much you are appreciated and also how much is expected from you. From what I know of you, I know that you deserve both the appreciation and the expectations,” he said.

“Even in these times, our civil service workers fulfill their mission and enable the continued functioning of the economy and the state. UCAPSE, which represents them, is tasked with standing by the representatives of the public, and ensuring that they can fulfill their mission, without fear and with a respectable vision of future employment opportunities,” he continued. “The past few months have taught us the need to unite for causes greater than ourselves, and we have witnessed great initiatives by the working public.”

Haim Bibas, chair of the Federation of Local Authorities and mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut,  also delivered a videotaped greeting to the conference, noting that UCAPSE, which represents employees of local authorities, is a key partner of the local government. “I congratulate you and wish us continued joint work for the benefit of the employees of the local authorities and for the advancement of service to the public,” he said. “You are leading UCAPSE in a difficult time, and we have learned that, even in moments of crisis, cooperation leads to achievements and allows us to grow together.”

Hila Knister Bar-David, CEO of Shahar On, the Association for Social and Professional Advancement, said to Bar-Tal, “My team feels like an integral part of the human fabric that works under you. Our associations and clubs are definitely a social movement that embraces and connects everyone: religious and secular and ultra-Orthodox, Jews and Arabs, men and women. In Arab society as well, we will continue to push and promote women together. Because we believe in equality, and that’s our way forward as a society.”

Other committee heads also spoke, including Bank Otsar HaHayal Union Chair Mazal Bublil, who spoke of Bar-Tal’s availability to help the bank's employees, even though the bank is a small workplace with only about 500 workers.

Iris Naftali, chair of the Ashdod Municipality Union, said, “We know that we have a strong and supportive organization, a winning organization. Gil, you are an attentive and caring person. You are compassionate, professional and you do everything with great love. You’re an inspiration for me and many others.”

Chair of the Haifa Municipality Union Amnon Ido spoke about the assistance offered by UCAPSE during the difficult struggle his union waged against the outgoing municipal administration. “During this period, Gil proved to me and to the municipal employees how dedicated, determined and committed he is to protecting workers’ rights,” Ido said. “He arrived in Haifa and sometimes returned home only in the early hours of the morning after grueling nights in courts and at the negotiating table.”

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