May 1st’s newsletter brings some truly exciting news: our legal petition was accepted by the High Court of Justice – the Deposit Law, which legalized the theft of 20% of the salaries of asylum seekers and refugees in Israel, was cancelled. The money will be returned to the workers. In addition, a report we published on May 1st shows the extent to which workers rights are being enforced by the Regulation and Enforcement Administration. The results are far from ideal. Additionally, our field work revealed how Palestinian workers who, due to the movement restriction measures against COVID-19 have entered Israel to stay for longer periods of time, are being accommodated in disgraceful conditions. The law promising them proper health insurance remains a dead letter. We submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice on this issue. A few days later, we received good news. 
The Cancellation of the Deposit Law

Three years ago, in March 2017, we led a legal petition together with The Refugee Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University Law School, numerous other civil society organizations and a select few asylum seekers. The pleading demanded the final and absolute cancellation of the Deposit Law. Adv. Michal Tadjer and adv. Gilad Cahana were the lawyers leading the process.

The Deposit Law represents a unique type of malice: a deduction of 20% from the salaries of asylum seekers, meant to abuse them and harden their lives, so they’ll rush to find a way out of Israel – and only then receive their deducted money. The deposit also included the compensation money and benefits employers allocate to their workers. After the last debate took place, we have been waiting for a verdict since May 2019. Meanwhile, asylum seekers kept contacting us nonstop – some asking for help with their rights at work, others proving how money was deducted from their salaries, but never actually deposited.The Coronavirus crisis made things worse – from a population already in a state of poverty and despair, the crisis brought them closer to total starvation.
KLO and other organizations demanded the release of the deposit money, and the state agreed to a ridiculous amount: 2,700 NIS to each asylum seeker, out of their own savings (when some savings could reach up to 70,000 NIS). As we were thinking how else we could fight for the release of the deposit money, on Thursday, April 23rd, we were informed that the High Court of Justice was about to announce its decision on the matter – and indeed the decision was announced.  The deposit law was cancelled and the money will be returned to the workers.
The verdict, written by Y. Amit, judge of the High Court of justice, said: “the deduction described in the discussed law is an exaggerated step in terms of exploitation of the poor and gentile" (Click here for the full verdict). Following this decision, our asylum seekers and refugees department, managed by Noa Kaufman, is working around the clock to  set up processes to assist workers in getting their money back, as soon as possible.


Kav Laoved’s Report – “Who is Watching Over the Workers?”

“Who is Watching Over the Workers?” Is a report published by Kav Laoved for the first time this year, in honour of May Day. The report contains an analysis of all enforcement steps taken by the Regulation and Enforcement Administration to ensure workers’ rights, as the Administration answered in response to a freedom of information request. The findings in the report draw a concerning image:  The last couple of years saw a decline of 16% in the number of financial sanctions and warnings to employers. No more than 1% of the employers - a total of 279,243 employers – out of all the employers constituting the Israeli economy, were subject to an enforcement action.
The report also reveals new data from the National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi), regarding the phenomena of employers violating to minimum wage law. The new information allows us to estimate the extent to which workers’ rights are being violated in Israel. The data reveals that the last decade saw a rise in minimum wage violations, while the minimum wage itself was raised gradually. As of 2018, the violations hurt 11% of the workers – approx. 429,550 workers in total. In 2019 only 157 enforcement measures were taken based on minimum wage violations – which means only 0.05% of the violating employers were subject to enforcement measures.

These results demonstrate how unimportant the enforcement of workers’ rights is to the state. The fact that the budget of the Regulation and Enforcement Administration saw a decline of 37% from 2016 to 2019 exemplifies this also.
This sort of systematic disrespect should be seen in an even gloomier light due to the economic crisis caused by the Coronavirus. One of the great dangers of the pandemic is the enormous worker rights violation potential it bears, when so many people are unemployed and longing for income. Especially these days, the state bears an even greater responsibility to defend workers, their rights and their wages. Unfortunately, the data showed in the report reflects just how the regulators in Israel are doing way too little to protect workers. Read the full report here.

The report was written with the assistance of the volunteers: adv. Diana Baron, Dr Naomi Friedman-Sokuler and Rotem Sudman.
Our Demands were Accepted: Palestinians Workers will Receive Health Insurance and Proper Accommodation During Their Time in Israel.

Background information: The Coronavirus crisis forced many Palestinian workers to remain in Israel, without the possibility to return home for a few weeks. This situation led us to address the relevant governmental authorities in March with the demand to provide the workers with proper accommodation conditions, supervision and enforcement of their rights, as well as providing them with the most basic issue of all – health insurance.
In response to our request, a policy briefing note on the matter was published. With that said, nothing had changed and photos of workers sleeping in construction sites kept coming. It came to us submitting an official legal petition against the ministers of health, labour, interior, construction and defense demanding the following: an arrangement ensuring the health and safety of Palestinian workers who are staying in Israel with lodging visas during the Coronavirus pandemic, conditioning their employment with the provision of proper accommodations as described in the foreign worker regulation laws, the enforcement of health and safety guidelines for workers and predominantly – taking an immediate measure against the despised phenomenon of employers taking away their workers’ identification documents, thus binding them de-facto to the work and restricting their freedom.
Fortunately, this time a response arrived quickly. On May 4th, new emergency regulations were published, addressing the health insurance and proper accommodation granting to Palestinian workers lodging in Israel. The regulations, as you can see here, actually address the main issues that were brought up in the original letter sent in March. A few issues remain unanswered, including the prohibition of taking away personal documents from workers to restrict their movement, as well as our request to find an alternative to the use of the Al-Munask app, which allows the military and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to gain access to workers’ cell phones.
It should be noted that these regulations shouldn’t be activated in a state of emergency only. The state must provide all workers staying within its borders with proper living conditions and take care of their health today as well as in calmer times.
Thank you for reading, and do not hesitate to share!
Kav LaOved – Workers' Hotline
Protecting workers' rights
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All donations will allow "Kav LaOved" to help workers get their rights at work and the money taken from them by their employers. Even a fixed contribution of 10 NIS per month. To donate by direct debit bank or credit card deposit contribution click here. Association account: Bank Hapoalim branch 781 Account 431095 in the name "Kav LaOved". To send a check to the offices of the association via mail: Kav LaOved PO Box 2319 ​​Tel Aviv 61022
Donations to Kav LaOved within Israel are income tax deductible under Section 46. Tax-deductible donations from abroad, by New Israel Fund. For more info: hagar@kavlaoved.org.il
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