Palestinian workers benefit from a unique alternative dispute mechanism. The Grievance Committee
One of the successful mechanisms we have established in the Histadrut of Construction Workers Union is the Grievance Committee, in which arbitration proceedings are held between workers and employers in the construction industry. The committee is part of the collective agreement in the industry, and every year thousands of cases come to its door that ends in agreements and quick solutions without high legal expenses, that without the committee, we would have had to wait many years in the courts.
Recently, another union attempted to copy our mechanism, but the court ruled that this was impossible, and only those represented under the collective-industry agreement could reach the Grievance Committee. This is yet another stamp of confidence that the building industry is appropriately, professionally, and firmly represented within the framework of the Histadrut of Construction Workers Union.
It all started ten years ago when I witnessed a legal hearing in a dispute between a contractor and an employee. The judge was furious with the parties and angrily called on us, “Go compromise.” The gaps between the parties were NIS 20,000. The employee was already at the beginning of hiring for a new job with another employer and needed a solution. The idea was that we would gather in the office and reach a solution. From my many years of experience as a public representative in the Regional Labor Court and the Histadrut of Construction Workers and Associated Industries, I have learned that most disputes between contractors and workers are usually due to a lack of familiarity with laws and agreements. When you sit down together and understand the sections of the law and the full rights of the employees, things come to a solution, and there is no need to depend on the court’s busy schedule.
Of course, things are much more complicated when it comes to Palestinian workers. For those unfamiliar with the numbers, I will explain that every day 84,000 construction workers who come to work in Israel pass through the checkpoints at the various construction sites, infrastructure, and renovations.
These workers leave their homes at 04:00, where they wait in long lines, and only after two hours do they reach the Israeli side. There, a ride awaits them on behalf of the contractor who takes them to the construction site.
Palestinian workers find it very difficult to get to work in Israel and cross the checkpoint. It is difficult to imagine how these workers succeed in filing a lawsuit in Israel when they have to overcome language difficulties, knowledge and information gaps, deal with local laws and bring their lawsuits before the courts in Israel. This difficulty was exploited by various lawyers, who collected a lot of money from the employees out of their rights.
As the person who designed and created the collective agreement in the construction industry and even signed it, I thought that day, I know the rights of the workers, so if I invite the worker and contractor to my office – I would surely be able to end the disputes within an hour or two. I am sure that the contractor, for his part, will be happy to end the matter and save valuable time and large sums that had to be paid to his lawyers for the management of the trial. Even the employee who contacted me will be happy to get what he deserves this week instead of another two years.
Therefore, I will invite the employee and the contractor to me and mediate between them. However, getting them all in my office would have created a situation of extending the reasonable time period for mediation between them, so from the information I gathered, I found that there are thousands of conflicts between workers and contractors in the industry every year and concluded that workers should be provided with a systemic solution.
I called and met at the time with Mr. Nissim Bublil, president of the Builders of the Land Contractors Association, introduced him to the issue, and he was happy with the idea of establishing a parity committee for resolving disagreements. I also talked about it at the time with Mr. Uri Rubin, Chairman of the Working Committee of the Association and the Economic Organizations. He was also in favor of the idea.
Thus, in 2010, a collective-industry agreement was signed that included the establishment of the Grievance Committee, which is the only mechanism for resolving disputes before the start of legal proceedings.
After several years, the Grievance Committee we have set up is a professional mechanism for resolving disagreements, saving time and service expenses, and constitutes immediate treatment.
The Grievance Committee consists of representatives of the Builders Association and a representative of the Construction Workers’ Union. The committee also has an attorney from each side so that it does not cost the employer or employee any money.
From the committee’s establishment from 2017 until the end of 2021, the committee handled about 5,000 workplace disputes, and 95% of them, the parties reached agreements. This proves that the Grievance Committee is a success story.
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