Moshav Sade Nitzan is located in the western region of the northern negev and falls under the local jurisdiction of Eshkol. 80 families and almost 157 migrants working in agriculture live on the Moshav (village). Kav LaOved visited the Moshav after being contacted by workers the morning before we arrived on September 9, 2013. The workers were in the midst of a strike regarding low salaries and late payment. The workers complained of receiving 120 shekels a day for 8 hours of work, and 17 shekels for every additional hour. Minimum wage in Israel is 23.11 shekels an hour, and 125%- 28 shekels an hour for every additional hour.
We suggested to the workers to create a list of demands from their employers and to include on the list a demand for fair salary. The workers wrote up a list and demanded 130 shekels for one day of work. We explained to the workers that their demand was lower than minimum wage, and that they should demand at least minimum wage. The workers demanded minimum wage- but by that time it was too late. Following the strike, and on the same day, the employers agreed to raise the salary to 130 shekels, and 20 shekels for every additional hour.
Once the employers reported to human resources that there was a strike, the company decided to send representatives. The representatives searched for the worker they presumed started the strike and instructed him to pack his belongings and come with them to their offices. Once arriving to the office, the worker was forced to sign documents written in Hebrew and was immediately taken to the airport. At the airport the worker was told he was being deported. The worker contacted Kav LaOved about an hour prior to his flight. In a conversation with the worker, we explained to him that his deportation was illegal and that he was no obligated to fly back to Thailand. The worker decided to take the flight to Thailand and therefore no primary accounts are available regarding the incident.
Following the deportation, the rest of the workers feared deportation and decided to end the strike, receive the conditions of the employers and return to work. Kav LaOved decided to take a visit, in order to hear their claims and express our solidarity regarding their strike. The workers were very excited about our visit. Only was we arrived we understood the necessity to provide them with information, pass out leaflets, and write up complaints. This was what expressed support for the workers and their courageous step to act. The workers decided to stand up for their right to receive a raise in their salaries and payment on time.
The workers requested to learn more about their rights. They asked about minimum wage in Israel, the law regarding additional work hours, and how to open an Israeli bank account. The workers even requested to learn how to quit a job without being guilty of “running away”. We gave the workers forms of dismissal in Thai and in Hebrew, and explained to them the new regulations regarding prior-declaration of dismissal. We passed out to all the workers information which they requested and also put on our Facebook page for agricultural workers how to open a bank account.
The most important information given to the workers at the visit was about the threat of deportation. Following the deportation of the worker the day of the strike, and the constant threats by the employers of deportation if they did not work and behave accordingly, we explained to them that the employers are forbidden from deporting them by law. We also explained to them that according to law they receive 2 months to organize themselves prior to deportation.
The workers from Nitzan work between 10-12 hours and day including afternoon breaks. Sometimes they are employed on Saturdays, in which they receive 20 shekels an hour. The workers have never opened a bank account in Israel. Some of the workers have received salary stubs from the Moshav- even though the farmers are technically in charge of the workers permits- and another handful of workers never received salary stubs. After analyzing the salary stubs and the work hour reports, the salaries of these workers are inconsistent with the number of hours they worked.
The workers buy their food at the store on the Moshav or nearby. We asked about the prices for food, and the workers explained to us that the prices were extremely high, especially because they earn less than the prices set according to minimum wage. The workers transfer their money through agents that receive the money in cash and transfer it to Thailand, with a 2% commission. The workers receive and text message which informs them about how much money was transferred and some workers receive receipts. The receipt is under the name of one of the residents of the Moshav who opened a business which transfers money.
It is important to note that the living quarters of the workers were decent. The quarters were lined in two rows, each quarter including two to three rooms. Between the two rows of quarters was a large open space. Each quarter had a refrigerator, shelves, bathroom and shower. The rooms were occupied by two workers, 4-6 workers in each quarter. The area was comfortable and pleasant.
The Right to Health:
The workers to us that when they get sick, the employer sometimes take them to the doctor- according to the severity of the injury/sickness. Chana, a migrant worker from Thailand told us that when he was sick he could not work for a month. His employer took him to see a doctor, where he received x-rays and some other checkups. It was discovered that the worker must have injured his head and needed rest. The period Chana did not work he did not receive his benefits for sick leave and did not receive any payment. When we requested from Chana to give us his medical documentation he said that they were with his employer who would be angry if he requested them. The health insurance cards for all for the workers were held by the employer and anytime they would need to see a doctor they would have to go through him.
No one has the right to withhold private documentation and the workers are eligible to reiceve them any time they want, especially medical documents due to their sensitivity. It is assumed by employers that workers do not know how to protect their documents, manage them, and can’t even read them because they are in Hebrew. This situation can lead to many problems for the employer, especially when the workers are not interested in disputing his need for medical documentation and to see a medical specialist. Or, for example, when a worker does not want to cooperate with his employer if she needs to see a gynecologist. The employers ensure their workers remain in a vulnerable situation where they are completely dependent on them- even for Acamol.