Video: Histadrut chairman announces strike in economy following ouster of Defense Minister (Yotam Ronen)
If you've been browsing social media recently, you've probably had the following ad pop up: "Were you hurt by the Histadrut's illegal strike? We're here to help." The explanatory notes begin with the Histadrut's press conference on March 27, in which its chairman, Arnon Bar-David, declared a general strike in the economy, following the dismissal of Defense Minister Yoav Galant and the cessation of departures at Ben Gurion Airport.
Some of you have missed plane tickets, missed clients, and missed appointments. You've suffered real damage. The Histadrut is responsible for the damage. If you lost money because of the Histadrut's illegal strike, you are entitled to sue it in the courts and demand compensation for the damage caused to you." Alongside all this is a detailed guide to filing a small claim, under the legal caveat that "this is not legal assistance."
Friends until the strike. Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar-David and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Photo: Oded Karni GPO)
Who's behind the ad?
This ad could have seemed like another slightly delusional initiative that could easily go under the radar, had it not been for the fact that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich himself said similar things, with the same message, immediately after the sudden shutdown: After instructing (despite his denials) his ministry staff to quantify the damage caused by the strike to the State Treasury, and to examine the feasibility of filing a lawsuit for damages against the Histadrut, Smotrich called on citizens who were directly harmed by it, File independent claims against it.
The one that stood to the right of the finance minister and decided to reach out to the public was "Competition – the Movement for Freedom in Employment," which was quick to launch an aggressive campaign to persuade citizens to go to court, as the minister commanded. An examination reveals a close connection between "competition" and Smotrich, which passes through the Kohelet Forum.
It turns out that Kohelet is the body that finances the campaign to file lawsuits against the Histadrut, against which the forum members have been waging a long-standing struggle. At the same time, the Forum advises the Minister of Finance on an ongoing basis, and it can be assumed that the idea of suing the Histadrut came from there.
"Competition," which serves as the executive arm in this case, was established in 2015 by Alon Tuval, "with the aim of advancing the labor market into the 21st century, in order to update legislation, interpretation, and enforcement of labor laws and to change the culture of labor relations in Israel." The organization is registered in Kfar Adumim, has one employee and 11 members, and its annual turnover in 2021 was NIS 89,000, a modest compared to 2018, when it reached a peak of NIS 567,000.
"We recently launched a campaign calling on people affected by the Histadrut's sudden and illegal strike, which was announced a month and a half ago, to demand compensation from it," the organization said in a Facebook post. "Why? Many think that the "competition" organization opposes organized labor in general and the Histadrut in particular. They think we want to "screw up" the Histadrut.
"It's true that we often criticize the Histadrut, but reading our content will reveal that we have no interest in harming the workers and their ability to unionize. Our goal is to modernize the labor sector for the benefit of workers and the economy. When the Histadrut harms the workers and harms the public, we criticize it, and when the Histadrut acts appropriately, we protest. That's a fact."
More in Walla!
10 weeks and swim half an hour rowing easily! TI commit!
CONTRIBUTED BY TI SWIM
The departure schedule at Ben Gurion Airport on the day of the strike, 27.3.23 (Photo: Flash 90, Avshalom Shouni, Flash 90)
"Screwing the Histadrut was not the goal"
One of the members of the "competition" is Matan Rothman, a full-time digital transformation consultant. He joined the association four years ago and began writing position papers and conducting research in the field of organized labor and in general, after being exposed to the subject during his studies at the university, together with Tal Koppel, who joined him.
He is careful to say that he has nothing against the strike, except in the way it was done, without the procedure required by law, and therefore, anyone affected by it, people who missed a flight, a doctor's appointment, important appointments, can and even should, sue for it.
"It's important for me to emphasize that we don't provide legal representation," he says, "but rather inform people about their legal rights, make knowledge accessible to them."
If people contact you, don't you give them names of lawyers?
"Not necessarily. We wrote a small claims guide."
In order to make the information accessible to the small citizen, or to harm the Histadrut?
"Screwing up the Histadrut was not the goal, but to help those who were harmed by illegal behavior. It is important to us that the rule of law and democracy ensure that organizations act according to the law. If the Histadrut acts contrary to it, there is a procedure, a regulator, a state, and no sanction has been taken against it."
Did you talk to Smotrich? He said exactly what you were saying.
"We haven't talked to him about it."
Are you in contact with the Minister of Finance?
"We're in touch with him and every other politician, but we haven't talked to him about it. As a movement that makes professional information accessible, we are happy to talk to any MK or minister."
Your positions match those of the Kohelet Forum.
"They fund the campaign and a third of our activity. We received funding from Kohelet around research and joint activity, but two years ago it was dramatically reduced, because we started working with volunteers, who, by the way, came from the idea for the campaign."
How many lawsuits have already been filed against the Histadrut?
"I don't have exact numbers yet, because we don't have information about lawsuits that have been filed, of course, but there are several thousand that have entered our landing page."
Arnon Bar-David, Chairman of the Histadrut. The strike following Gallant's dismissal angered the economic right (Photo: Photo processing, Flash 90 Jonathan Zindel)
Histadrut: "Warn the public about them"
The Kohelet Forum does not hide its pride in the campaign: "The Kohelet Forum is proud to encourage initiatives and cooperate with organizations working on behalf of the citizens of Israel and the State of Israel, including those engaged in helping citizens defend themselves against the predatory behavior of powerful and wealthy entities that harm Israeli citizens for political purposes, illegally."
The Histadrut said in response: "'Competition – The Movement for Freedom in Employment' is an organization that works openly and systematically to erode workers' rights in the State of Israel. Among other things, they aspire to increase the barriers to exercising the right to organize, reduce the power of workers in the workplace, weaken protective laws and labor courts, and limit strike rights in Israel.
As an association that has been fed by the Kohelet Forum since its inception, both conceptually and resourcefully, all that remains is to warn the public about the dangerous ideas they are promoting. It is worth reminding the activists in this ephemeral association that the way to promote economic prosperity in the economy does not pass through alienation from the moral and social values by which we established the State of Israel."
- Kohelet Forum
- Bezalel Smotrich