Histadrut launches “lightning campaign” using SMS, Facebook and the web to unionize yet another insurance company

According to this report in the daily financial newspaper Globes, the Histadrut has announced a “lightning campaign” to sign up one third of the employees of Migdal Insurance by tonight.

About 1,000 out of the company’s 3,000 workers are expected to join the union, which will force the company to bargain collectively.

The campaign follows on the successful unionization earlier this year of Clal insurance.  According to the report in Globes, “Their activity was slow and secret, but at Migdal, began to acquire the form of a full-scale military campaign.”

“There is no place where we are not active. We came organized and with the goal of winning,” a Histadrut source told “Globes”. “D-Day was set for today, and all Migdal employees received an SMS and link to a website to join the Histadrut digitally. The Histadrut also set up sign-up stalls across from the company’s headquarters in Petah Tikva, and activists from the union and employees are distributing brochures as we speak, calling on the employees to enter the special Facebook page set up for the unionization.”

International Federation of Journalists calls on Israel to investigate attacks on Palestinian journalists

The International Federation of Journalists, a global union federation with members in both Israel and Palestine, has called on the Israeli government to investigate an attack on Palestinian journalists which took place in the village of Bil’in, in the occupied West Bank.  The statement issued by the IFJ both denounces the firing of rubber bullets and the use of stun grenades against journalists — which it calls “deliberate targeting” of journalists — and also demands that the Israeli government investigate what took place.

In recent months, the IFJ has played a key role in helping to strengthen trade unionism among Palestinian journalists.

They have also criticized the Hamas government in Gaza for its treatment of journalists in the past.

British and Australian trade unionists to visit Israel and Palestine

Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) will lead a delegation of senior trade unionists from the UK and Australia to visit Israel and Palestine from November 3-8. The delegation will meet with sister trade unionists from the Histadrut and Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unionists (PGFTU), with site visits to factories, and time spent in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Nablus. To keep up to date on the trip, follow TUFI on twitter.

Histadrut to launch $1.8 million ad campaign to promote unionization

According to this report in Globes, the daily financial newspaper, the Histadrut has decided to launch a 6.5 million shekel ad campaign on television to promote union membership.  While the Manufacturers’ Association condemned the planned ad campaign as “wretched timing” — not specifying when precisely was a good time, in their view, to promote union membership, Histadrut leader Ofer Eini defended the plan: “It is precisely at this time that unionization of employees is needed, especially at a time of vilification of organized labor.”

UK: Unison escalates BDS to a new level in call on company to pull out of Israel

In an apparent escalation of the BDS (boycott divestment sanctions) campaign targetting the Jewish state, Britain’s giant public sector union Unison has called on a company to cease its activities in both the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Israel itself.

According to the union’s press release, “Unison today called on controversial security firm G4S to cease commercial activity in Israel and Palestine territories, because it is in breach of the Geneva Convention.”

The union claims that G4S provides security at some Israeli prisons which hold Palestinians, and that this is a breach of the Geneva convention.

Just in case anyone thought the call to withdraw from Israel as well as the occupied territories was a slip of the tongue, Unison General Secretary Dave Prentiss in his letter to G4S writes explicitly “I would urge you withdraw now from doing business in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s (PSC) Sarah Colborne noted that the Unison call to G4S was a significant development. “A union publicizing this is very significant,” she told the Electronic Intifada. “It’s a ground-breaking move: I’m not aware of this happening before within British trade unions.”

The PSC issued a press release lauding the union for its decision.

At this year’s Unison National Delegate Conference a lengthy resolution on Palestine was adopted which did not explicitly call on companies to cease all activities in Israel.  Instead, the focus was on a boycott of settlement goods.

According to the resolution adopted, which is binding on the Unison leadership,”UNISON supports boycotting Israeli settlement goods”.  The only part of the resolution which could lead to Unison calling on G4S to cease its activities in the country is a sentence supporting “campaigns to stop public service contracts being awarded to companies which are complicit in Israeli violations of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention, for instance by contracts which service the illegal settlements, construct the Apartheid Wall or provide security in prisons holding Palestinians illegally transferred from the Occupied Territories”.

In other words, it seems that Unison wants to punish G4S in the UK for conducting activities in Israel and Palestine it disapproves of, but there is no blanket call for G4S to cease all activities in Israel.

This escalation of Unison’s support for a complete boycott of Israel — rather than a limited boycott of settlement goods — parallels the union’s opposition to Israeli academic Moty Cristal, whose visit to Britain was stopped by a Unison branch which thought that union policy included a blanket ban on all Israelis.

These small, incremental changes in union policy — which have no basis in the decisions taken by the National Delegate Conference — represent a form of “mission creep” which are leading one of Britain’s largest unions firmly in the direction of hostility towards Israel rather than support for a peace process that could result in a two-state solution to the conflict.

Israeli companies violate workers rights in the occupied territories

Kav LaOved (the Workers Hotline) has produced a new report on how Israeli companies behave in the occupied Palestinian territories.  The Israeli NGO says that a large number of Israeli companies routinely violate the rights of workers they employ — and in many cases are taken to court by those workers.   The report names and shames 17 such Israeli employers.

Big win for workers’ rights in Palestine as journalists reach agreement with employers

One doesn’t normally think of the Arab world general, and the occupied West Bank in particular, as places where we can celebrate victories for organized labour.  And yet that’s precisely what happened in Ramallah on Saturday evening.  In a ceremony witnessed by the President of the International Federation of Journalists, Jim Boumelha, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate signed an agreement with three major news media in the country.

“It took many months of hard work by the leaders of our affiliate in Palestine to achieve such a historical milestone for their members,” said Boumelha. “The PJS can now set out to negotiate with employers the first collective trade union agreement for journalists in the region.  The IFJ congratulates them for this major achievement which will benefit journalists, secure their future and enhance the profession.”

Read the full report on the IFJ website, here.

Israel: Controversial head of Ashdod port workers’ union cleared of corruption charges by Histadrut

Alon Hassan, head of the Ashdod port workers’ union, stepped down from his post several months ago following extensive and widely-publicized allegations of corruption.  Hassan was accused of owning companies that made deals with port owners.  The Histadrut, Israel’s national trade union centre, appointed its chief legal advisor to head up an inquiry and it has now reported that Hassan has been cleared of the charges – allowing him to return to his post.  But Hassan remains a deeply divisive figure, and Labour Party leader Shelly Yachimovich has blasted the decision.

On her Facebook page, she wrote that “”It is a serious mistake to reinstate Alon Hasson as chairman of the Ashdod Port workers committee. Hassan is a rotten apple who stains labor leaders, all workers, and us, the fighters for organized labor who believe in it. The Histadrut was right to suspend him, and wrong to reinstate him today, ‘because he no longer has business relations with the port’. I deeply regret this. Netanyahu, Lapid, Bennett, and Yisrael Katz can go out and dance in the streets. They have been given the best weapon that privatizers and haters of organized labor could have dreamed of. Hassan is not just a symbol mentioned every time they want to privatize state assets, shame, destroy a union, or outsource. He is not just a symbol; he is a true corrupt thug.”

Israel: Court rules port workers may strike – but must wait until October 10 to do so

According to this report in Globes, the daily Israeli financial newspaper, a strike by port workers to protest the right-wing Netanyahu government’s decision to create two new privatized ports is legal and legitimate — but cannot take place before October 10th.

Port workers, members of the Histadrut (Israel’s national trade union center) are among the best-organized workers in the country, and they are concerned that the new ports will be non-union and low-wage.

Far-right members of the Netanyahu government have already punned about port workers being like cockroaches, and the need for an exterminator to be brought in to deal with the problem.

UK: Unison boycott case may take weeks to resolve, says judge

The case brought by Israeli academic Moty Cristal may take weeks to resolve, according to the judge – reports the Jewish Chronicle yesterday.

In the first reports we’ve seen of the pre-trial hearing last week, it now appears that public sector Unison’s defence revolves around the term “Israeli negotiator” to describe Cristal.  The union is now claiming that “its members’ objection to Prof Cristal was because he had in the past been a negotiator on behalf of the Israeli government” and not simply because he is an Israeli.

Cristal, it will be recalled, had been invited by an NHS Trust to come to Britain, but his visit was cancelled following the intervention of the public sector union Unison.

The judge in the case, David Mitchell, now says it will take much longer than previously thought for him to work through the issues – and warned that the case may go to the supreme court.