2,000 Thai farm workers set to arrive

The new workers are coming despite government declarations about expelling foreign workers.

2,000 new Thai farm workers are due to arrive in Israel in a few days, belying last month's so-called "historic agreement" between the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Israel Farmers Federation for the reduction of 2,000 foreign farm workers a year over the next five years. That agreement was aimed at reducing the number of legal foreign workers in Israel from the current 28,500 to 18,900 in 2015.

The Farmers Federation has a simple explanation: the government had promised to allow the import of 4,000 foreign farm workers in 2009, although it now agreed to grant only 2,000 new visas.

Last month's agreement was more favorable to the farmers than the decision by the previous government. In August 2008, former Minister of Finance Ronnie Bar-On adopted the recommendations of a special committee to reduce the number of legal foreign farm workers to 7,000 by 2015. To put it another way, the so-called "historic agreement" actually allows Israel's farmers to employ 2.7 times more foreign workers than planned a year ago.

Israel Flower Growers Association secretary general Haim Hadad said, "The arrival of the Thai workers will save the upcoming growing season. He added that the workers have been packed up and ready to go since the beginning of the year, waiting for the Israeli government to approve their visas.

Meanwhile, many social organizations are calling the deal an absurdity. On one hand the government is devoting effort and resources, which it publicizes, to deport foreign workers whose visas have expired, even as it grants visas for the import of new workers.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 11, 2009

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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