Social Justice for Subcontracted Workers

9 July 2015

Since the national elections, the Shatil-coordinated Direct Employment Coalition has stepped up efforts against unjust employment practices prevalent in the Israeli job market. Prominent on the agenda is the predicament faced by “shoulder-to-shoulder workers”—employees who perform the same work as their colleagues, with the same responsibilities, but who are not compensated equally due to their employment through subcontractors. In 2012, the government agreed to put an end to this practice in the public sector and to employ all workers as full-fledged government employees, but it has yet to fulfill this pledge.

In addition to traditional advocacy and media work, coalition activists have employed their creativity to come up with innovative methods to bring attention to government injustices. A few weeks ago, they began marking sidewalks adjacent to government institutions employing subcontracted workers with an eco-friendly imprint of a person pointing his finger at the office stating, “This is where the government shamelessly employs subcontracted workers.”

“This initiative has a number of objectives,” says Shatil community organizer Shira Eytan, who coordinates the coalition. “First off we want to emphasize how widespread the phenomenon is. Most people have no idea that the government employs more than 400,000 subcontracted workers. Secondly, the visual imprint is really a symbolic statement. Part of the problem is that subcontracted workers are invisible, many of them occupy positions that we take for granted – cleaning workers, orderlies, etc. By creating a prominent visual image we focus attention on them and put a face on their struggle. Finally, we want the government to begin taking tangible steps to implement its commitments. This means mapping out the institutions that employ subcontracted workers so that they can begin addressing the issue. We think that the initiative will point them in the right direction.”