Opinion: Out of all the coalition’s policy proposals thus far, curtailing labor rights could prove to be one of the most preilous affronts to Israeli democracy

Between the coalition’s assault on the judiciary, threats to shut down public broadcasting, Curtailment of the Law of Return and the abolition of checks and balances designed to protect our democracy; Knesset’s Constitution Law and Justice Committee chair Simcha Rothman decides to turn the pressure cooker up a notch and proposed to place curbs on the right to strike.

The bill comes against the backdrop of a wave of nationwide strikes and protests against the government’s latest moves.

שמחה רוטמן
Hi-tech strike, Simcha Rothman (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch, EPA)


While restricting the right to strike might sound like an easier pill to swallow compared to the judicial overhaul, we must not underestimate its repercussions. Alongside the other trends developing here in recent months, this could prove to be one of the most dangerous affronts to Israeli democracy.

The bill would dramatically reshape the power dynamic between employers and employees in Israel. Among other things, it intends to transfer the power to restrict work actions from the labor courts to the Knesset, significantly limit the grounds for labor disputes, and prohibit labor unions from collecting membership fees from those unwilling to pay, ergo severely impairing labor unions’ ability to operate.

This raises the following question: given that the right to strike is one of the most significant tools in the battle for workers’ rights, and given that labor unions will no longer be able to protect society’s most vulnerable sectors – who will protect the workers if this bill becomes law?

 ועדת חוקה חוק ומשפט
Simcha Rothman (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


Rothman had already confirmed in a series of media interviews that his bill is directly linked to the judicial reforms.
Accordingly, the bill reads that “the proposed amendment reduces the ability of small pressure groups to stop policies that seek to benefit the general public.”

Well, not sure I’d consider the opposition to the judicial reforms a minority, but one thing is certain — there’s a significant recurring pattern in this statement and the judicial reforms, which threatens the Supreme Court and aims to take away its power to fight and protect the rights of minorities in Israel.

This is not what democracy looks like.

At the end of the day, even if the bill does not end up materializing and will remain a veiled threat toward workers and their union, meant to prevent them from taking part in today’s political-economic-social battles, there is no doubt that the discourse of recent days is a slap in the face of workers in Israel.

הפגנת מחאה ברחוב קפלן בתל אביב
Protest in Tel Aviv (Photo: Satview)


Especially for public sector workers, who feel invisible as it is, and now also realize how easily they can be silenced and the unions that come to protect them can be knee-capped. This disturbing realization fits neatly into Rothman’s agenda.

It is fair, and even called for, to criticize the labor unions.
However, at the end of the day, Rothman’s bill would weaken and belittle them while limiting the rights of the workers themselves, especially those belonging to the weaker sectors.

Hence, the criticism must come with realistic alternative solutions, because otherwise, there will be no one left to protect our workers. This will influence everyone – from a factory worker who gets fired from his job to a pregnant mother who will struggle to get hired, and a teenager who won’t get his paycheck on time.

The right to strike is a fundamental right, whether in the battle for workers’ rights such as fair wages and improved working conditions, or civil rights. Nonetheless, taking away this right will drastically harm the delicate dynamic between workers and employers, basic human rights, and the welfare of the Israeli public.

As reported by Ynetnews