The Histadrut, the major labor federation in Israel, called off a general strike planned for yesterday, Wednesday, November 7, after reaching a deal with the government to improve safety conditions for construction workers.
The focus of the planned strike had been the dearth of safety regulations at building sites, following the deaths of 37 construction workers so far this year, the rate of deadly work accidents in Israel’s construction industry being more than twice the average in the European Union. In Israel, there are only 18 construction site inspectors for the entire country, while EU standards would demand 360 inspectors for a similar number of sites.
The agreement between the Histadrut and the government which averted yesterday’s planned general strike include measures making the European standard for scaffolding obligatory, regulating cranes, and augmenting additional safety standards. Other measures reached in the agreement include the obligatory monitoring of workers to ensure they do not exceed the permitted number of work hours, increased safety precautions for construction from heights, more than 100 new site inspectors, and the stricter regulation of cranes.
The open-ended strike that was called off was expected to see workers at government offices, local authorities, banks, emergency services and airports walk off the job. Many organized employees in the private sector were also likely to participate if the labor action went ahead.
The latest in a series of construction site accidents occurred on Tuesday, November 6, in Petah Tikva when three construction site workers fell from a height of 12 meters when the scaffolding they were working on collapsed at a building site on Weizmann Street. Amazingly, they were apparently uninjured or not seriously so, as they left or were taken away from the site before emergency services arrived. Five teams of firefighters conducted a search for a fourth man who was thought to have been involved, but it later transpired that no additional workers had been caught up in the incident. No injuries were reported.