Breakthru collective agreement for Israeli building sites: New details

The employment rights of guest workers and Palestinian workers will be protected under a dramatic breakthrough collective agreement  for Israeli building sites adopted in January 2010.

Under the first ever national agreement the starting pay for all construction workers on Israeli building sites will now be 19% above the minimum wage.

The global union federation for construction workers – the Building and Wood Workers International – has just released the latest details of a national agreement for all workers on Israeli construction sites.

The announcement is a major challenge to the Israeli right-wing who have campaigned to push all non-Israelis, working in construction,  out of the country.

The Histadrut Chairman, Ofer Eini, the President of the Association of Construction and Builders, Nissim Boublil, and the Construction Workers Union Chairman, Yitzhak Moyal, signed a sector collective agreement in the construction sector on January 21, 2010.

The agreement will apply for the first time to all employees in the construction sector.

The agreement takes effect with the issuing of an extension order according to the Building and Wood Workers International.

According to the agreement, workers will receive a salary of NIS 4,350 in the first rank, up to a maximum in the eighth rank of NIS 6,200; the minimum wage will be higher in the industry – NIS 500 higher than the minimum wage in the economy.

Managers will receive starting salaries of NIS 6,550 in the first salary rank, up to the seventh rank maximum of NIS 8,200.

Furthermore, a wage increase of 6% will be distributed to all salary ranks over two years once the agreement comes into force. As a result, the starting wage in the construction sector will be 19% above the minimum wage in the economy.

The agreement determines that employee ranks will be set by “seniority in the sector”, i.e. by the number of years the employee is working in the sector and not by the number of years working for a contractor.

The work week in the sector will be 42 hours – one hour less than what is customary in the economy.

Employees will receive a study fund for the first time.

They will also receive additional social benefits: a comprehensive pension from the first day of work, compensation for the cancellation of work due to poor weather, an annual quota of vacation days, sick days, and higher than the usual number of convalescence days found in the economy, and more.

The agreement also sets up a dismissal mechanism that includes a hearing and consultation with the Histadrut. In addition, a paritetic mechanism is included in order to settle disputes.

All the benefits in the agreement shall also apply to workers employed by renovator contractors and Palestinians and migrant workers employed in the sector.

The agreement also determines that in case a certain benefit cannot be given due to a legal restriction, such as a pension fund, a sum of equal value to the benefit will be transferred to a special fund which will be designated for the employee, in order that the employment terms of migrant workers and Palestinians are not adversely affected.

Read earlier items about Palestinian and Israeli construction workers, and organising guest workers