Histadrut signs up Thai workers - in Thailand

Foreign workers will be asked to pay NIS 1,580 to join the union before their arrival in Israel.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Thais interested in working in Israeli agriculture will soon be asked to join the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel), and to pay NIS 1,580 ($420) to join the union while still in Thailand, before their arrival in Israel.

The Histadrut said that its legal department and Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini have not yet approved the plan. The fee will give the Thai workers five years representation by the Histadrut, although the workers will have the right to quit the union at any time and get the advance payment back.

The Histadrut has been in talks with Thai unions over the past four years, and the parties are now close to an official agreement.

Eini has enlisted his close associate Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Benjamin Ben-Eliezer in the effort. Ben-Eliezer wrote to his Thai counterpart, praising the Histadrut, which he said was Israel's largest trade union. Thailand's Minister of Labor Kaeothong Phaithun apparently accepted the recommendation and paved the way for a deal.

"He instructed anyone coming to Israel to become a member of the Histadrut," said Histadrut Tel Aviv district chairman Gershon Gelman, who is handling the talks with the Thais. He cautioned however, that the minister's statement only has declarative legal standing, and that joining the Histadrut is voluntary for Thai workers.

Not everyone is impressed by the Thai workers' volunteering. "Why sign such a form in Thailand rather than in Israel, if it's voluntary?" asked Adv. Yuval Livne, a member of the foreign workers rights clinic at Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Law, and a former legal advisor at Kav Le'Oved Workers Hotline. "It's impossible to talk about volunteering when we're talking about the weakest workers that exist, especially after they've been compelled to pay an average of $12,000 for the right to work in Israel," he said, adding, "It sounds completely illegal."

The Histadrut's actions in Thailand follow Eini's historic decision several months ago to allow foreign workers - provided that they are legally in Israel - to join the union for the first time in its history.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 9, 2010

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2010

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