Israeli workers on election day

Free elections are a rare event in the Middle East, and it is only in the last few years that Egyptians, Tunisians, Iraqis and others have had the chance to freely cast ballots for the candidates of their choice.  In Israel, free elections in which all citizens, Jewish and Arab alike, can vote have been a reality for 65 years, since the creation of the state.  While the world’s media focusses on the question of whether Benjamin Netanyahu will be able to pull together a coalition that will keep him as prime minister, the Israeli NGO “Workers Hotline” (Kav LaOved) has approached election day from a totally different, and perhaps unexpected, angle.

They’ve prepared a guide (in Hebrew) to workers’ rights on election day.  These include:

  • Election day in Israel is an official holiday for all workers.
  • Those who do work will receive 200% of their regular pay for the hours they work.
  • Every worker must be given time to go out and vote.
  • Workers employed in the election process itself cannot work more than 12 hours, and youth working on the elections are limited to 8 hours.

Free elections are unfortunately still fairly unusual in the region, though as more countries begin the process of democratization, they will need to look for examples of how elections work — and the rights given to workers on that day.  Israel offers a model of how this can be done.