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Israel: Bloggers Back the Struggle for Workers’ Rights

One of the issues Israeli bloggers truly care about and campaign for is workers’ rights. In recent years, several emerging workers unions from less expected sectors such as café waiters, security personnel and journalists, have blogged as part of their struggle and were able to create a vibrant discussion and rally support in the blogosphere.
At present, two topics are stirring up the Hebrew blogosphere: supporting the academic staff of the Open University that has been on strike for five weeks and counting, and boycotting AMPM drugstores (the “seven eleven” of Tel Aviv) for their workers’ rights infringements.

The Open University is the biggest Israeli university with 42,000 students nationwide and a staff of 1300 academic personnel. As traditional media abandoned this dispute after two weeks of strike, over 30 Israeli bloggers took it upon themselves to keep this struggle on the agenda and the discussion alive.

Keren Fite, PhD in English literature, writes on her blog:

“For 13 years I was led by the notion there is no choice: that the Open University has its unique economic constraints and it can only hire me when enough students register for my course.  Due to these constraints I often get notified about my course's opening only a week before the semester starts, and until than I am left wondering if I will have a salary for the next few months. Due to the same constraints I'm fired and re hired (or not) at the end of every semester.
But the university doesn't care about my constraints: I'm not entitled to call in sick or any other basic social rights for that matter, and when I was pregnant the university refused to renew my contract for the next semester.
At present, when I am on strike, the university doesn't respect my right to strike, to say no to these disgracing employment conditions. Since the beginning of the strike I've been getting threatening emails, demanding to know if I am striking de facto and later notifying me that they will not be paying my salary if I'm on strike. In other words, they know they are my main source of income and they're waiting for me to be hungry enough to break the strike.
Thus, the Open University that stands for making higher education accessible, denies me of the access to fair employment and the right to economical well being.”

Labyrinth, an Open University student writes on her blog:

“It is possible that my graduation will be postponed, that my grades will drop or that in a month from today I will not breathe under the pressure of catching up the missed lessons. But it is possible that my teachers will be able to breathe a bit between a lesson and an exam, because their salary will be a bit fairer. I might also be able to recommend my teachers to other students knowing that they have a steady job and will be there for sure the next semester. And it is also possible that the academic staff union will open the door for other strong and worthy unions in many private colleges that suffer the same consequences.
So maybe one day when I'll be in their place (yes, I'm considering this…) I will be happy i paid the price for this strike since I'll be paid back decently for my work”.

And Tomer Reznik adds on his blog:

“As I was wondering how I can write an interesting post about a struggle for the obvious (collective agreement, job security etc), it suddenly came to me: the fact that the academic staff has to fight for the obvious is the whole point here. The open university must meet their demands immediately and stop treating them as if they were temporary contractor workers!”

Limor64, a member of the academic staff of the Open University for 11 years, notes:

“We don't want to be the University's shock absorbers anymore. The Open University is a successful enterprise but its success is on the expense of its human resource.
We're not getting paid for 5 weeks now, the future of this semester is unclear but we look into the future hoping for a secure and rewarding workplace. Organized labor is so important nowadays on a global scale, since both employers and governments make the workers pay the price for the current economical crisis”.

In addition to these blogging efforts, various Facebook solidarity groups were created and Roy Chicky Arad, a journalist-blogger involved in counter-culture activity, has organized a guerilla poetry reading titled “the closed university” that was held on May 12th in front of the private residence of the Open University's president.

In the past few days a new viral bloggers campaign emerged, promoting a boycott on AMPM drugstore chain, on account of severe right infringements of their workers, mostly of Jewish-Ethiopian ethnicity.

Blogger Sharon Gefen who initiated the boycott, writes:

“I ignored their overpricing or the fact that their increasing presence forces the closing of favorite family-owned drugstores, but workers rights infringements isn't’ something I can live with. Say, if the cashier is a few minutes late to her shift, she pays a fine of 150nis. If she cannot make it to her shift she's fined with 450nis, which is more than double the money she earns for that shift. Enough is enough. I'd rather buy my cigarettes (and milk, and bread and tampons etc.) someplace else, so that everyone will feel ‘it's good to live in this city’ as the AMPM slogan states, even if they are AMPM workers”.

  • Pingback: Treating their own badly | Antony Loewenstein

  • MERC

    … but don’t give a stuff about Palestinian rights.

    • http://www.absolutecarmel.com carmel

      they actually do, very much. the Israeli blogosphere is extremly left-wing and full of peace activists. unfortunatly they don’t represent the current public opinion in the society they live in. the bloggers are playing a key role in represnting a public opinion that is often ignored by traditional media in times of distress, legitimizing many more like them.

  • MERC

    Yeah, and all 40 of them took to the streets recently: “Some 40 concerned citizens marched in Tel Aviv… in protest of the proposed Nakba and loyalty laws.” ynetnews, 28/5

    • http://www.absolutecarmel.com carmel

      well they’re more than 40 allright. just to throw in a couple more numbers: 1884 members in the facebook group against the Nakba ban and 10,339 so far have signed an online petition against. and these are just the active ones. many more people are against but are nto activists….

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