The right to strike

Dr. Asaf Bondi and Michal Stien - Arlozorov Forum
Jan 14, 2022

The right to strike is considered one of the basic socio-economic rights in a democracy and is even recognized as such in international law. Although it is common to think that striking is a tool in the hands of strong organized workers, in practice, the right to strike in Israel exists in the struggle to protect the rights of weakened and exploited workers. This professional by the Arlozorov Forum presents the data, failures, and restrictions imposed on this right and which violate one of the basic principles of the democracy.

The right to strike is one of the main ways to give practical meaning to the right of workers ‘organization and from the first tools, on which workers’ organizations are based in their action to represent the voice of workers, improve their rights and regulate the labor market. In addition, the right to strike is an extremely important tool in promoting the rights of vulnerable workers. Yet all too often in public discourse the right to strike is presented in a negative light and strikes by “powerful” workers – such as railway workers or port workers – are equated with violent acts. This contradiction underlies one of the most important political struggles taking place in Israel – over the right to strike and its scope.

This report discussed the nature of the right to strike, and addresses a number of arguments: the first will be that workers’ organizations use the right to strike as an excessive force or as a “disproportionate” move that harms the public and its right to services; The second refers to the proliferation of strikes in Israel as an act that causes social and economic problems, And the third discusses a proposal to impose further restrictions on the right to strike. The current document presents the data, according to which the main motives for strikes in Israel are the prevention of deterioration in working conditions, reduction or prevention of layoffs, as well as demands for protection and improvement of the status of weakened workers.

When looking closely at who is the striker and what are the reasons for strikes in Israel, as done in this document, it can be seen that in practice, the right to strike serves as a tool in the struggle to protect the rights of vulnerable workers, as opposed to the strike. Along with these motives, it is also possible in a number of cases to see the importance of the strike in order to ensure the right to organize, in light of the opposition of employers to its implementation.

In addition, the document reveals that there is a continuing trend of reducing the number of striking workers in Israel and the number of working days lost as a result of a strike. Clearly and consistently, labor unions are reluctant to strike, preferring to settle labor disputes in dialogue with employers and with the state, when given the opportunity. There are many examples of this from the representatives of the various workers’ organizations in Israel. See, for example, the remarks of Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David regarding the struggle to raise the minimum wage.
Finally, the document indicates that the demands to restrict the right to strike in Israel ignore many informal restrictions imposed on this right by the judicial system, through the compulsion of mediation and the continuous prevention of strikes in both public and private services. In light of the centrality of the strike to the exercise of the right of association, these restrictions express a gradual erosion of one of the basic principles of the democratic regime by weakening the freedom of expression and bargaining power of the working public over the distribution of resources in society.