By Noa Shauer, Coordinator for Agricultural Workers

From the beginning of this month, workers in agriculture from villages in the Arava will receive minimum wage. Unfortunately, most farmers in Israel still succeed in withholding this legal right.

First and foremost, we are proud to celebrate this achievement. This was a strenuous journey, and except for Kibbutzim who generally pay workers according to law, most of the farmers in Israel still succeed in getting away with not paying minimum wage to workers.

As part of our daily routine, Kav LaOved traveled last June to visit the workers in agriculture from villages in the Arava. Following our visit, we gathered all of the materials, workers’ accounts and statistics and sent them as a letter to the head of the agriculture committee in the area. We reported that the workers’ salary was about 130 shekels a day for 8 or more work hours, and another 17 shekels for every additional hour. The minimum wage per hour in Israel today is about 23.11 shekels, and according to law, the payment for the first two additional hours is 125%- 28.88 shekels an hour- and the payment for each hour over the first two additional hours is 150%- 34.66 shekels an hour. In addition to this report, we were told that workers were using and in contact with pesticides with no protection. This  was quickly added to the complaints sent to the Ministry of Economy about the villages in the area.

Following the bilateral agreement (TIC) made between Israel and Thailand, and after lots of time hoping conditions would improve, we reported and acted against the unwillingness of these villages to provide minimum wage. The farmers decided to finally behave according to law and pay the workers what they deserved.

Many workers turn to us each week and complain about their salaries being lower than minimum wage. As a response we send out hundreds of complaint letters to the Ministry of Economy as well as employers. Withholding the payment of minimum wage from workers in agriculture is a continuous phenomenon in the industry, and not a series of coincidences. Many lawsuits are filed against farmers for not paying minimum wage, and the employer is eventually obligated to pay the difference in the salary that the worker deserves. These facts force and pressure farmers to start paying their obligations to workers, similar to the employers in the Arava.

We commit to follow the positive changes being made, and commit to protect and defend the rights of workers in agriculture in Israel.