|Big wins for children, women and workers’ rights|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
Last week, the government approved a historic plan to provide free preschool education for children aged three to five. Three days later, an unusually large and broad coalition of 30 members of Knesset joined with SHATIL and civil society organizations working to forbid employers from replacing permanent staff with subcontracted workers. By mid-week, the Israel Medical Association barred its members from participating in public events that exclude women.
What do these seismic changes have in common? SHATIL’s hand.
The bills are rooted in the recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee, which was established by the Prime Minister to respond to the massive social justice protests last summer. Together with Jerusalem City Councilwoman Rachel Azaraia’s Yerushalmim organization, an NIF grantee, SHATIL convened a forum of organizations that pressured the government to approve a series of proposals, which will significantly ease the financial burden on young families, enable many more women to join the workforce and help bridge social gaps. The forum urged the government to implement the Trajtenberg report’s recommendations to find the funds for the commitment to pre-school education by raising taxes on the wealthiest citizens and cutting the defense budget, rather than cutting welfare and education budgets.
In a letter to the government, the forum wrote: “We praise the adoption of the Trajtenberg Committee recommendation. At the same time, we are sorry that the implementation will begin only in September of 2012 and not in January 2012, as the report recommended. This represents a partial and delayed response to the cry of the protest that brought hundreds of thousands of citizens to the streets during the summer of 2011.” As a way of celebrating the government’s decision as well as monitoring it, SHATIL, Yerushalmim, the Forum for Free Education and others initiated an unusual and joyous event on January 17: Parents and Children’s Day in the Knesset. In contrast to the usual political scenarios, Knesset members sat on the floor reading stories to children, who, in between stories, chanted, “The people want social change!”
NIF/SHATIL, and the summer protests, are also heavily involved in the issue of growing income inequality in Israel. One of the causes of this unprecedented social gap is the increasing use of subcontracted workers by employers as a way to skirt salary and benefit requirements mandated for salaried workers. The phenomenon is spreading exponentially -- from cleaners and guards to teachers, college professors and more.
Recently, a bank notified its staff that as of the next day, they would all be converted to subcontracted workers. In response, SHATIL’s Center for Policy Change recruited a wide range of civil society organizations for a Knesset lobby that will work to change this trend. The 30 members of Knesset supporting the historic lobby represent eight Knesset factions from far right to far left, including representatives of the ultra-Orthodox. In a radio interview on Tuesday, MK Dov Khanin (Hadash) pointed out that the government itself is the biggest culprit when it comes to using outsourced workers and violating worker’s rights.
Shay Cherpanov, SHATIL lobby consultant, said: “SHATIL together with the National Union of Israeli Students and other organizations succeeded in recruiting a good number of MKs to demand that the government decide once and for all what kind of society we will have: a society of fairness and social solidarity, or an exploitative one?”
On the explosive issue of exclusion of women, which continues to dominate the Israel media, the SHATIL-led Coalition for the Inclusion of Women in the Public Sphere launched a campaign to cease public funding or sponsorship of events and organizations that exclude women. Last week, the Puah Institute, which works to promote fertility among Orthodox women, held its 12th annual conference, an event that attracts about 1,500 people and which forbade women experts to speak. As a result of the SHATIL coalition’s public pressure-- including a letter to the government signed by more than 45 civil society organizations -- eight out of nine physicians invited to address the conference cancelled their appearances and the Israel Medical Association called on its members to boycott any scientific or medical event that excludes women. “This is a sensitive and complex issue,” said SHATIL’s Pluralism Project coordinator, Tammy Katsabian. “We are not anti-Haredi. We are anti-inequality.”Thank Israel’s doctors for affirming women’s rights. Click here to send a letter to the Israel Medical Association’s decision barring members from speaking at events which exclude women.