The Histadrut must call the rail workers to order

Shay Niv

Bully tactics are harming the whole idea of organized labor in Israel.

The Israel Railways workers committee is a gift to every devotee of privatization, It is the ultimate example of the myth of the bullying, violent committee that wants to run the business, after first wrecking it and its image.

The Ministry of Finance and Israel Railways management don't have to explain to the public why they insist on transferring maintenance of rolling stock to an external company from Canada even though this will cost the taxpayer a great deal more. The workers committee has done that for them better than they could do it themselves.

One more little strike, one more slight disruption, and the railway workers will have maneuvered themselves into privatization. Call the guys from Canada, the owners of Bombardier, and tell them they can pack their suitcases. Call it a present from the workers committee.

The railways workers committee doesn't just hurt the travelling public, the railway workers themselves, and their place of work. It is damaging organized labor in Israel altogether. Thousands of workers currently now striving to unionize their workplaces face employers genuinely convinced that exercise of this democratic right will undermine the enterprise.

The workers seeking to unionize talk about shared destiny of employee and employer, on the need to consult workers before changes or layoffs, and all the employers see is the railway workers committee throwing its weight around. Now they're talking nice, and it's all about cooperation; tomorrow they'll bring the roof down on our heads.

This is where the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) ought to make its voice heard. No more grumbling in private, no more talk behind the scenes of the headache that is the railways workers committee. Privatization of maintenance on the railways is a real blow to organized labor there and should be resisted, but not in a way that harms the efforts of workers everywhere.

If Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini could tell the social workers who demonstrated last year against the agreement that had been formulated on their conditions, "We achieved the maximum for you", there is no reason that he should not stand before the railway workers and tell them "Guys, you have gone way too far." The Histadrut is an umbrella organization for various unions and workers committees, and it has the right to put them in their place.

Strong unions in Israel face constant denigration. The government, the public, the mass media, and the labor courts, always prefer small and weak workers' organizations. Precisely because of this problematic image, the stronger unions need to behave with greater wisdom, caution, and responsibility. The railways workers committee has failed completely on all three counts. So has the Histadrut.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on February 15, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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