In May, Israel Railways workers held wildcat strikes following the arrest of union leader Gila Ederi and nine others. They were arrested while demonstrating against railway privatisation near the house of the Israel Railways chair, Uri Yogev.
Strikes started the following morning. The National Labour Court ordered the strikers back to work, but workers claimed that because their union leaders were in prison, the message could not get through to them, so they stayed out! The authorities had to release the union activists, but issued them with 30-day restraining orders, instructing them to stay away from Maccabim, where Yogev lives. Ederi, Israel’s only female union leader, says that police officers beat her.
Israel’s govenment, led by the right-wing Likud party, is threatening to take unilateral steps to 'reform' the railways, including 'an immediate outsourcing of maintenance of the new rolling stock, and a new employee supervision and enforcement mechanism'. In other words, privatisation plus a workplace clampdown. Sound familiar? The rail workers, who have a militant union, are fighting back - and their campaign has cited the disastrous example of British Rail!
Here's something else that might sound familiar: The media is demanding restrictions of the right to strike, perhaps a law against strikes in central government services. At the same time, the railway workers continue their battle; they are fighting to start a legal, official strike against privatisation.
In mid-May, at the end of a long hearing at the Tel Aviv District Labour Court, representatives of the workers' committee and Israel Railways management agreed that they would hold talks through until July 1.
Palestinian workers at the Salit quarry in Israeli-controlled West Bank are in the second month of a strike over management’s refusal to sign a contract they had agreed.
The workers are organised by the Workers’ Advice Centre, a union of Arab and Jewish workers which tries to plug the gaps where Israel’s major trade union federation, the Histadrut, does not organise: many Israeli unskilled workers and Arab workers.
The same government that is pushing privatisation and repressing workers' struggles also continues its violent oppression of the Palestinian people.
This September, the Palestinians plan to declare their own state alongside Israel.
We should support the Palestinians' demand for national self-determination, and support the struggles of Israeli and Palestinian workers against the bosses and the government.