Land of Israel: Labor
Jewish Labor Organizations
in the pre-state period
Since the last decades of the 19th century, a number of sporadic labor associations have arisen in agriculture and in the printing, clothing, and building trades, as well as groups limited to a particular locality or place of work. The *Teachers' Association was founded in 1903, but its aims were only partially those of a trade union. The first abiding Jewish trade union organizations in Ereẓ Israel were the two regional associations of agricultural workers founded in Galilee and Judea in 1911. In 1913 a clerical workers' union was set up. In 1919 a railroad workers' union, including both Jews and Arabs, was founded; it later took in the postal and telegraph workers.
Founding of the Histadrut
The founding of the *Histadrut, the General Federation of Labor, in 1920, was not primarily the result of the development of these early trade unions, but rather the outcome of strongly held ideas about the unity of the Jewish workers in Ereẓ Israel and their mission in the building of the country as a workers' commonwealth. *Aḥdut ha-Avodah, founded in 1919 (see Israel, State of: *Political Life and Parties), aimed at establishing one body, organized on a trade union basis, which would deal with all the interests of the workers including ideological and political activities. However, it did not achieve the support of all the workers, especially those in the *Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir party, which rejected its socialist definitions. The newcomers of the Third *Aliyah, belonging to the *He-Ḥalutz, Ẓe'irei Ẓion, and *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir movements, who arrived in 1919 and 1920, were opposed to the authority of both Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir and Aḥdut ha-Avodah, which had set up competing labor exchanges, contracting companies, and medical services and each of which claimed to represent the workers, especially in the vital area of agricultural settlement.
Joseph *Trumpeldor's appeal (at the beginning of 1920) for the unification of the workers to deal with their common interests and the threat by a conference of ḥalutzim, which met on Mount Carmel in autumn 1920, to set up a separate workers' organization pushed the parties into agreement on the convening of a general conference of workers in December 1920. Eighty-seven delegates, representing 4,433 voters, participated. (Aḥdut-ha-Avodah had 37 delegates, Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir 26, "newcomers" 16, pro-Communist 6, and others 2.) The very fact that delegates were chosen by general elections (although they were held on a party-list system) constituted an agreement to establish a general organization, and not just an interparty coordinating body, as Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir wanted, but there was much controversy at the founding conference over the character of the organization. The leaders of Aḥdut ha-Avodah (Berl *Katznelson, Shemuel *Yavne'eli, and others) wanted to endow it with the widest possible powers in political activities, cultural affairs, and defense, while Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir, led by Yosef *Sprinzak, wanted to preserve the power of the parties. The differences were resolved by a compromise: the founding conference decided to establish the General Federation of Jewish Workers in Palestine (Ha-Histadrut ha-Kelalit shel ha-Ovedim ha-Ivriyyim be-Ereẓ Israel), which, according to its constitution "unites all workers in the country who live on the fruits of their own labor without exploiting the labor of others, for the purpose of arranging all the communal, economic, and cultural affairs of the working class in the country for the building of the labor society in the Land of Israel." With the founding of the Histadrut, the He-Ḥalutz Organization in Palestine announced its dissolution. *Gedud ha-Avodah, the Labor Legion, which had been set up in 1920 to carry out pioneering tasks on a cooperative basis, joined the Histadrut but later developed into an opposition group.
In the early years, the Histadrut devoted itself to creating work and encouraging immigration by building up an independent labor economy. Agricultural settlement was to be the highroad to this goal, but the shortage of national lands and public funds for the purpose, which delayed the start of the Zionist Organization's operations, pushed the workers into public works and building. The Histadrut set up an Immigration and Labor Center, which received immigrants and tried to find them work on a contract basis – groups of workers undertaking jobs and sharing the proceeds. The contracting offices which the different parties had set up before the establishment of the Histadrut were unified into the Office for Public Works and Building, which received government and other contracts. Cooperative contracting seemed the right way not only to build an independent labor economy, but also to compete in the unorganized labor market.
Within the framework of the Histadrut's Office for Public Works and Building, various subcontracting groups from different backgrounds, organized according to different principles, were formed. Some came from the youth movements and some from particular cities abroad, while other groups were organized ad hoc for the purpose of a particular job. Some worked as partnerships, while others divided up the income either in equal parts or with higher shares for the skilled workers. Some of these groups became well enough organized to be ready to establish agricultural settlements. The Histadrut was careful to keep all these groups open to new immigrants and tried to limit the advantages of the skilled workers.
In the organization of its basic units, the Histadrut gave preference to "kibbutzei avodah" and "ḥavurot" (collective work groups), which undertook subcontracting jobs, the urban cooperatives, which were regarded as stages on the road to an independent workers' economy, and trade union organizations, which were seen as a correlative to the capitalist economy. Of the trade unions themselves, the Histadrut favored those set up on an industrial, rather than a narrow craft basis, despite the very small scope of industrial enterprise at the time. The industrial basis was regarded as a safeguard against separatist tendencies among the skilled workers and as training for the running of industries in the future. In accordance with this policy, a National Union of Public Works and Building Employees was established in 1922; it was also intended to exercise democratic control over the Office of Building and Public Works. There was opposition to this policy from the skilled workers, as well as from the Communists and other left wing adherents, who regarded the building of a workers' economy as utopianism and exploitation of the workers. Bank ha-Po'alim (the Workers' Bank), which was founded in 1921, was intended to be the credit institution for the Office of Public Works and for the contracting groups; its long-range goal was to help to build the independent labor economy. The basic capital of lp 50,000 was invested by the Zionist Organization, which bought the founding shares. A Histadrut delegation which went to America to raise money from the half million Jewish workers there in the summer of 1922 did not succeed in its mission, due to anti-Zionist opposition. The supply organization, Hamashbir, which furnished the workers of the Office with consumer goods on credit, was also included within the framework of the Histadrut. Medical aid was provided by Kuppat Ḥolim (the Workers' Sick Fund), which had been founded in 1913, split in 1919, and was reformed.
Labor Economy versus Class Struggle
At the Second Convention of the Histadrut, which took place in February 1923, the debate between the advocates of the independent labor economy and those who defended purely trade union interests continued. The former view was favored by the great majority of the 130 delegates, representing 6,581 voters. Aḥdut ha-Avodah, which had 69 delegates, more than half the total, regarded it as a Palestinian form of the class war and Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir, with 36, as the Jewish national way to the building of a people's socialism and a just society. The left-wing opposition, on the other hand, argued that this was "the socialism of poverty" and demanded a class-war policy which would assume the evolution of a capitalist economy and the adaptation of the immigrants to its existence. At that conference, the Histadrut completed its constitution and decided to join the Trade Union International in Amsterdam, against the opposition of the left, on the one hand, and Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir – which opposed all international ties – on the other.
From 1922 to 1927 the policies of the Histadrut, under the vigorous leadership of David *Ben-Gurion, were guided by three central principles: the building of the Land of Israel as a socialist economy under workers' control; maximum economic self-sufficiency, the workers supplying their own needs in order to accumulate capital; and the syndicalist idea of identity between management and labor. These aims found expression in the legal-economic framework set up by the Histadrut to safeguard its social principles and run the labor enterprises which were under the control of the workers. *Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim, the General Cooperative Association of Jewish Labor in Palestine, which was identical in membership with the Histadrut and the legal owner of its assets, ensured its influence in its subsidiary companies by means of founders' shares. One of the subsidiaries was Nir, the Cooperative Society for Agricultural Settlement, which was established to control and develop the workers' agricultural settlements, and to whose members its shares were sold. A second was *Solel Boneh, the Cooperative Society of Jewish Workers for Public Works, Building, and Industry. By means of preference shares without voting rights, the two companies were able to raise external capital.
The grandiose plans of Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim, which was licensed by the authorities in 1924, were only partially realized, however. Solel Boneh over-expanded its activities in order to give as much employment as possible and went bankrupt in 1927; its failure caused difficulties for Hamashbir, which had given it credit in kind. The Zionist Organization did not recognize Nir as the representative of the agricultural settlements in signing contracts, and there was also internal criticism of excessive control over the individual settlements. For all practical purposes the Histadrut remained in control only of its central institutions, and not of the cooperatives or the communal settlements. During the economic recession of 1923, large-scale public works were stopped, investment and credit were severely limited, and unemployment rose to 1,500–2,000. These developments increased the Histadrut's responsibilities in the distribution of work and assistance, and its leadership proposed the building of the economy by the workers' own resources as a defense against the retreat from Zionism. The planting of tobacco in the villages marked an improvement in the employment situation in 1924. The idea of moving to the countryside suited the aspirations of many workers at that time, and collective contracting groups began to form in the villages. Later on, in 1925, the urban employment situation picked up with the beginning of the Fourth Aliyah.
The leaders of the Histadrut regarded the building of a workers' commonwealth as first and foremost a question of agricultural settlement. There were still groups of workers – some of them formed before World War i – that had been supported by the Palestine Office of the Zionist Organization and wanted to settle on the land. The decisions of the London Conference in 1920 favoring settlement on Jewish National *Fund land by self-employed farmers or groups suited the principles of the workers. The Histadrut represented the candidates for settlement in contacts with the Zionist institutions, which left the choice of the social form of each settlement up to the settlers themselves. Gedud ha-Avodah adopted the idea of the "large commune" conceived by Shelomo *Lavi. Workers' groups from the youth movements or from particular cities also formed collective settlements. Some workers formed organizations for cooperative smallholders' settlements (moshavei ovedim). Groups of all these types settled in the Jezreel Valley in the early 1920s.
In 1923 *En-Harod, the first "large" kibbutz, split away from Gedud ha-Avodah in a dispute over economic autonomy, and in 1927 formed the *Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad (United Kibbutz) movement. In the same year *Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arẓi (Countrywide Kibbutz) of Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir settlements was founded. Gedud ha-Avodah split; some of its members became Soviet-oriented communists and left the country for the U.S.S.R., while the others joined Ha-Kibbutz ha-Me'uḥad. The kibbutz movements represented their settlements in dealing with the Histadrut, while the latter's Agricultural Center presented to the Zionist Organization on behalf of the settlers matters dealing with priorities in allocation of land, budgeting, and development of various branches of farming. It also protected the social structure of the settlements – especially in periods of economic difficulty, mediated in disputes between settlements, and looked after agricultural training – especially of women in special training farms. In 1926 it founded an Office for Agricultural Contracting.
Organization in the Cities
Despite the emphasis on the building of an independent agricultural economy, the Histadrut did not neglect job opportunities in the cities. It set up labor exchanges which fixed conditions and priorities for applicants for employment. With the development of industry, in addition to building, and the creation of regular jobs, the trade unions began to develop at the expense of the labor communes of the earlier period. The idea of combining the labor commune with workers' neighborhoods and small auxiliary farm plots or other forms of cooperative economy was not realized on a large scale. The Jewish National Fund did not supply the land, nor the Zionist institutions the funds, for this purpose. The independent workers' economy was limited for the most part to the countryside. Despite the absence of legislation or regulation and the competition of cheap labor, the Histadrut gained many achievements, including recognition of its right to represent the workers in collective bargaining, the conclusion of wage agreements, and the beginnings of social benefits. On the question of allocation of work only through the labor exchanges, the Histadrut ran into opposition from religious workers who did not belong to it (some of whom formed *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi in 1923) and employers who, on one occasion, in 1925, announced a lockout. These conflicts brought on the intervention of the British police. The Va'ad Le'ummi tried to mediate on behalf of the yishuv, but ran into difficulties, partly because of the absence of a representative employers' organization. The main Histadrut institution in the towns was the local labor council, which, in practice, set up the various trade unions and coordinated the activities of the other Histadrut institutions in the locality. Elections to the councils were held on a personal basis, which led to complaints of discrimination from the smaller parties, and at the Third Convention proportional representation was introduced.
The ramified activities of the Histadrut swelled the size of its staff and led to complaints of bureaucracy. To bridge the gap between members and officials, the family wage system, under which all the Histadrut's employees were paid on the same scale, wages depending only on whether the official was married and the number of his children, was adopted at the Second Convention. Breaches of the system in the direction of professional scales were condemned at the Third Convention, and a watchdog committee was set up.
Despite its very limited funds, the Histadrut did not abandon its activities in the field of education and culture, which were conducted both by central institutions and local branches with the idea of creating a "workers' culture." These activities included instruction in Hebrew, publications, libraries, theater (see *Ohel), periodical literature, and, from 1925, the daily newspaper *Davar. From 1923 an autonomous "workers' trend" in the Hebrew educational system began to take shape. To overcome the effects of the split in the Jewish labor movement in the Diaspora, the Histadrut tried to set up an organization which would unite all groups supporting labor in Palestine, and the Labor Palestine Committee was founded in 1923. The Palestine Workers' Fund (Kuppat Po'alei Ereẓ Israel – Kapai), which had been founded before World War i by the World Union of *Po'alei Zion, was transferred to Histadrut authority in 1927.
New Policies After the Third Convention
The Histadrut's membership grew more rapidly than the economy as a whole, or even than the number of workers, but it did not succeed in taking in the religious workers: a section of Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi joined in 1925 but left again in 1927. The growth of the Histadrut was noticeable at its Third Convention, which took place in 1927, at the height of an economic crisis, when it had 22,500 members – a fivefold increase since 1920, though the Jewish population of the country had only doubled in the period. The majority of the membership, nearly 70%, was urban. Of the 201 delegates, Aḥdut ha-Avodah had an absolute majority with 108, and Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir had 54.
Communist influence made itself felt, mainly among the unemployed, and the Zionist parties combated it not with the ideal of an independent workers' commonwealth, but by a many-sided policy of activating all public and economic factors. The Histadrut leadership called on the Mandatory Government to adopt a policy of aid and encouragement to agriculture and industry, and urged the Zionist Organization to conduct its settlement activities with a view to establishing productive enterprises. The advantages of private capital investment were recognized, and willingness was expressed to conclude collective agreements on working conditions. The economic institutions of the Histadrut were reorganized, maintaining their autonomous character, and a Control Commission was set up. The convention defined its policy towards Arab workers as the establishment of autonomous trade unions allied with the Histadrut in a federation to be called the Alliance of Palestinian Workers (Berit Po'alei Ereẓ Israel). In view of the economic crisis and the financial retrenchment carried out by the Zionist Organization, the Histadrut leadership agreed in the late 1920s to the enlargement of the *Jewish Agency, in the hope of raising larger sums for agricultural settlement, and decided to seek a more influential role in the Zionist Organization.
In 1928 the employment situation began to improve and there was a shift in the structure of the economy, followed by a change in the structure of the Histadrut. The leading source of employment was no longer building, but large national industrial enterprises like the electric station at Naharayim, the Dead Sea Works, and the Athlit quarries. About 20% of the workers employed in building Haifa port were Jewish. There was development in medium-sized industries, handicrafts, services, and particularly transportation. Many found employment in the large citrus-based moshavot. The 1929 Arab riots also had the effect of increasing the use of Jewish labor, even if only for a short period. As a result, the Building Workers' Union decreased in size, and trade unions based on regular membership and more skilled workers developed. There was an improvement in labor relations and efforts were made to sign collective agreements.
The Histadrut intensified the struggle for Jewish labor in the moshavot, despite the opposition of the left wing (Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir and Left Po'alei Ẓion) who were against the demand for 100% Jewish labor; a Histadrut company for agricultural contracting (Yakhin) was set up. The workers in the villages for the most part regarded hired labor only as a stage on the way to independent settlement; some of them organized themselves into groups ready to set up kibbutzim or moshavim. The Jewish National Fund bought land in the Kishon region and the citrus areas for the scheme to settle 1,000 wage-earners' families on the land (Hityashevut ha-Elef; see Israel, State of: *Aliyah, Absorption, and Settlement, section on Settlement). As the *Keren Hayesod's funds were not sufficient, these settlements were financed partly by workers' savings and partly by Histadrut investment, in the main through the Nir Company. The Histadrut's Agricultural Center determined the order of priority for settlement, had a say in the apportionment of land, and exercised a considerable degree of authority.
Expansion of Activities and Influence
In the early 1930s the Communist challenge to the Histadrut, which had been based on unemployment and the failure to develop an independent socialist economy, weakened. *Mapai, the Palestine Labor Party, founded in 1930 by the unification of Aḥdut ha-Avodah and Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir, was supported by some 80% of the membership, and there was no longer any large opposition party. The minority parties, Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir and Left Po'alei Ẓion, concentrated on the demand for class militancy in the yishuv and in the Zionist movement, and for closer cooperation with the Arab workers. The leadership rejected any limitation of Jewish workers to skilled occupations and stood firmly on the need to penetrate all branches of the economy, state and private Jewish. In the Jewish-owned economy it demanded the employment of Jewish labor only, as the Arab workers had ample scope in the governmental services and also in Arab enterprises which were closed to Jews.
The Histadrut was strengthened by the immigration of members of Ḥe-Ḥalutz, which, since its Third Convention in Danzig, regarded itself as a source of reinforcements for the ranks of labor in Palestine. The growing influence of the Histadrut parties in the Zionist Organization had the effect of increasing immigrant quotas and allocations for agricultural settlement. Opposition to the status of the Histadrut in the yishuv in those years came from the Revisionist workers' organization, *Histadrut ha-Ovedim ha-Le'ummit, the National Labor Federation, founded in the spring of 1934, which opposed the integral character of the Histadrut and its control over labor exchanges and job opportunities. The Histadrut leadership rejected all demands for the limitation of its all-inclusive character, and was ready to agree in principle to a labor exchange not exclusively run by the Histadrut only on condition that a single body would be responsible for the organized allocation of work, and that the Histadrut's influence in the representation of the workers not be weakened. In the early 1930s there were violent clashes over these controversies. In the autumn of 1934 Ben-Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky, the Revisionist leader, reached agreement on avoidance of violence and the regulation of the relations between the two federations, but the agreement was rejected by a Histadrut referendum. The development of joint labor exchanges began in the second half of the 1930s and continued all through the 1940s, ending only with the establishment of state labor exchanges in independent Israel.
Despite the contraction of the Histadrut's comprehensive economic ambitions, it continued, with some success, to strengthen the labor-owned enterprises, although most of the Jewish sector of the economy was based on private capital. The labor economy was reorganized in 1924–34 according to directives laid down at the Third Convention. These demanded that the economic institutions be put on a sound financial basis; that each enterprise operate on a scale appropriate to its own economic, financial, and organizational capacity; that a regularly constituted authority should be developed for each enterprise, participating in its management and responsible for the economic consequences of its activities; and that each enterprise have complete internal financial autonomy within the framework of the overall authority and control of Ḥevrat Ovedim.
Contracting ceased to be the central branch of the labor sector. Solel Boneh was replaced by a Public Works Center under the control of the Histadrut Executive Committee, while contracting offices were set up under the local labor councils. Solel Boneh was reestablished in 1935 and absorbed the local contracting offices between 1937 and 1945. Some of its veteran employees were granted permanent status and special privileges. Bank ha-Po'alim expanded its turnover and capital through deposits and sale of shares. In 1926 Tnuva was established to market agricultural produce and took over the sales department of Hamashbir. It was divided into regional branches – Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem – and was under the control of the settlements that sold their produce through it. In 1928 the Cooperative Center was founded to organize the cooperatives in manufacturing and crafts, transport, and other services; the transport cooperatives were particularly successful, but Histadrut control was fairly lax. In 1930 Hamashbir was reorganized as Hamashbir Hamerkazi, a cooperative wholesale society with defined functions, and was placed under the authority of the kibbutz movement and consumers' cooperatives in the towns and moshavim. A Housing Center was set up in 1930 with all its shares held by Ḥevrat Ovedim. In 1935 it became Shikkun, Workmen's Housing Ltd. It represented tenants' cooperative societies in their dealings with the Jewish National Fund, acquired and developed land, and prepared building plans. The building was done on public land and the apartments were cooperatively owned.
Problems of Prosperity
Between 1927 and 1933 the proportion of urban to rural workers shifted to the advantage of the countryside: the percentage of town workers fell during the period from 70% to 56.9%. The period of prosperity from 1933 to 1935 increased the demand for labor and stepped up wages, but led to developments which the leadership regarded as dangerous and incompatible with labor principles: for example, the renewed concentration of workers in the building trade and in the cities, with a decline in economic activity in the rural areas; employment of hired labor by cooperatives and contracting groups; letting and selling of apartments built with public funds at inflated market prices. There were complaints about the rise of a privileged bureaucracy, isolated from the public it served. All of these questions were taken up at the Fourth Convention of the Histadrut in 1933–34. The number of Histadrut members had risen to 33,815; 22,341 participated in the elections. Of the 201 delegates, 165 belonged to Mapai. The Histadrut leadership regarded the expansion of the labor market through private capital investment and increased demand as a desirable but economically unstable phenomenon, while the status of hired labor (as against labor economy) and the rise in workers' consumption were seen as socially undesirable. It was believed that the Histadrut should concentrate its efforts on stepping up savings during the period of prosperity in order to invest the proceeds in the building of an independent workers' economy, especially in agriculture. Since 1928 the Histadrut had been trying to build up its own credit facilities for agricultural settlement by selling shares in Nir. In 1934 it was decided to reorganize Nir as a limited company in order to secure funds from the private market.
The emphasis on increasing immigration and work on the land brought a renewed struggle for the employment of Jewish labor in the moshavot and citrus groves. The Histadrut called on the workers to go to the villages despite the higher wages in the towns, and demanded that the grove owners provide them with employment. Efforts by the Zionist Organization to mediate did not help very much, but the outbreak of the 1936 Arab riots completely changed the situation. Under Katznelson's leadership, the Histadrut began to widen its cultural activities and its work among the youth, laying greater emphasis on its ideological character. In 1934, after Ben-Gurion had joined the Jewish Agency Executive, he was succeeded as secretary-general by David *Remez.
Enhanced Role in National Leadership
The Arab revolt of 1936, which transformed the life of the yishuv, also had an important influence on the activities of the Histadrut. Its political and communal activities widened: it had a political office in London to foster relations with the British Labor Party and the Trade Union International, and its representatives gave evidence before the Peel Commission. In its political appearances the Histadrut attacked the Communist interpretation of the Arab revolt as the uprising of an oppressed people against colonialist domination, emphasizing the progressive structure of the new Jewish society and the economic advantages accruing to the Arabs from Jewish settlement. Its support, as a workers' organization, for increased immigration, despite unemployment, was of great importance.
In the Jewish community itself, the Histadrut used its moral authority and its organizational and economic resources to strengthen the defense of the settlements and road communications, but it opposed retaliation against Arab civilians as practiced by the "dissident" underground organization *Irgun Ẓeva'i Le'ummi (iẒl). In the united *Haganah (defense) organization, which was based from 1937 on parity between labor and non-labor, the Histadrut represented the labor sector. Its authority over the pioneering and settlement organizations made it a leading factor in the establishment of the stockade and *watchtower settlements, while members of He-Ḥalutz and the Histadrut took the initiative in setting up the organization for clandestine *"Illegal" immigration. Although more men had to be employed in defense – as policemen and watchmen and in building fortifications – 1936–40 was a period of recession and unemployment. Building activity slowed down and the demand for labor fell, despite the growth in citrus cultivation. The Histadrut established a Work Redemption Fund to which every worker contributed several days' pay to support the unemployed. Public works were started through public companies established in partnership with the Jewish Agency. Expansion into new fields, such as fishing and shipping, was encouraged. In that period the organizational structure of the Histadrut was strengthened. In 1937 it introduced the "unified tax" – a single membership fee to cover the cost of organization, mutual aid, and health services – thus integrating trade union membership with membership of Kuppat Ḥolim.
In the late 1930s, the Mapai leadership tried to achieve unity with Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir and its urban partner, the Socialist League, hoping to avoid ideological and political controversies that would weaken the Histadrut's capacity for common political action. The ideological conflicts were already too deep, however. Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir regarded the Histadrut as an organization dedicated to the class struggle and refused to accept national authority in labor affairs. It wanted to establish joint Arab-Jewish trade unions and believed that the Zionist goal could be achieved by class partnership with the Arab workers in the framework of a binational state, which would accept the Zionist demand for free immigration. It also developed a leftist orientation in international affairs. It strongly opposed any ideological or cultural activity on the part of the Histadrut. Although the Histadrut had established a publishing house, Am Oved, in addition to its daily organ,Davar, Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir set up its own publishing house, Sifriyyat ha-Po'alim, and newspaper Al ha-Mishmar.
The period of World War ii presented the Histadrut with difficult problems, both as a labor organization and as a Zionist body. At the beginning of the war period, the employment situation worsened because of a decline in investment and building, a shortage of raw materials and industrial goods, and marketing problems, especially in citrus. In November 1939 there were 18,000 unemployed; in January 1941 there were still more than 10,000. Only in 1941 did the tide begin to turn, owing to recruitment to the armed forces, which reduced the numbers looking for work, and increased economic activity, first in building army camps, bridges, and fortifications, and later in the economy as a whole. The scarcity of imported goods created favorable conditions for the development of local agriculture and industry, while the British Middle East Supply Center regulated the supply of raw materials.
The war situation changed the character of trade union activities. In 1943 the Mandatory government issued a decree forbidding strikes and introducing compulsory arbitration. The rise in the cost of living made it necessary to adjust wages, which were linked to the cost-of-living index. During these years the trade unions achieved seniority payments, annual vacations, and employers' contributions to Kuppat Ḥolim for their members. Trade-union negotiations became more centralized, with the development of larger enterprises and the growth of the Manufacturers' Association. The trade unions developed in different directions and along flexible lines on countrywide industrial and craft foundations; in all cases care was taken to preserve the authority of the center over the sectional organizations.
The Zionist character of the Histadrut and its organizational and economic power made it the center for discussion and decisions on the yishuv's war effort. The Histadrut supported enlistment in the British army, with emphasis on the defense of Palestine by Jewish units. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war, in June 1941, overcame the hesitations of some of the pro-communist groups about the war. The Histadrut's control over the labor market made it easier for it to put pressure on those who shirked enlisting. It also agreed to demands, strongly supported by the left groups, to recruit members for the Haganah and the *Palmaḥ. The kibbutzim and other settlements were put at the disposal of these units as places of work and bases for military exercises. The Histadrut also developed and encouraged independent activity in the rescue of European Jewry and "illegal" immigration.
The great possibilities for marketing and investment during the war increased the strength of the Histadrut's economic sector, whose long-range aims had been curtailed since 1927. Initiative, technical and management capacity, and capital, which had accumulated in the contracting and supply companies, were invested in industry. Enterprises were also set up in partnership with private capital on a 50–50 basis. At first Solel Boneh and Hamashbir took up branches closest to their own field of operations – building materials and food products – and then expanded into other areas. The management of the enterprises became more and more independent of the central institutions of Ḥevrat Ovedim, and the Histadrut's control over the cooperative sector was weakened. Efforts to renew Nir ha-Shittufit to take the initiative in labor settlement did not succeed: the kibbutz movements preferred their own separate funds. On the other hand, the Histadrut's credit and social insurance institutions developed successfully.
Controversies and Splits
The war period created political and ideological problems which led to disagreements and splits in the Histadrut. In the elections to the Fifth Convention in 1941, 88,198 members voted out of the total eligible membership of 105,663. Out of 392 delegates, Mapai had 278 and Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir and the Socialist League 77. A non-socialist group, *Ha-Oved ha-Ẓiyyoni, returned 14 delegates. At the convention, which met in 1942, there were outstanding differences between the left, which believed that Zionism might be realized with the support of world Communism, and the majority in Mapai, which stood first and foremost for the enhancement of the yishuv's own strength. The definition of Zionist aims in the *Biltmore Program (1942), which demanded the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish commonwealth, sharpened the controversy. Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir continued to support the binational solution and the disagreement came to a head over the question of the instructions to be given to the Histadrut delegation to the conference of the World Federation of Trade Unions, in which the Soviets participated, in 1945. These controversies weakened the Histadrut's capacity for political action, but it was united in its opposition to the 1939 White Paper and to the "dissident" underground organizations (iẒl and *Loḥamei Ḥerut Israel).
Both prewar unemployment and wartime prosperity aroused tensions within the Histadrut over such matters as the relations between workers and unemployed, hired labor in the contracting companies and the cooperatives, and conflict between the bureaucracy and the membership. In 1944 Mapai split, and a minority group, Siah Bet (b Faction), later Ha-Tenu'ah le-Aḥdut ha-Avodah, adopted an independent stance in the Histadrut. It called for more "class independence" and opposed Ben-Gurion's program, which had been followed since the beginning of the 1930s, of emphasizing the Histadrut's leading role in the yishuv and the Zionist movement, even to the extent of giving up separate labor activities.
The elections to the Sixth Convention in 1944, in which 106,420 of the 151,860 eligible voters participated, showed that Mapai still had a majority, though a much reduced one: 216 out of the 401 delegates. Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir and Left Po'alei Zion had 83 delegates, Ha-Tenu'ah le-Aḥdut ha-Avodah 71, and Aliyah Ḥadashah, a new non-socialist group (mainly immigrants from Germany and Austria) and Ha-Oved ha-Ẓiyyoni 12 each. The Mapai leadership tried to win greater support among the urban workers and achieved a decision to set up national unions of factory, transport, and building workers, in addition to the existing national unions of agricultural, clerical, engineering, railroad, and postal workers. They also tried to reduce the influence of the left-wing parties on the pioneering and youth movements in the Diaspora and succeeded in getting the Histadrut to decide on a united pioneering movement under its sponsorship. The period between the end of World War ii and the War of Independence was not, as some had feared, one of economic depression. Investment capital and increased consumption raised the demand for labor and enhanced the power of the Histadrut. During the struggle against British rule and the War of Independence, the economic and organizational strength of the Histadrut provided a solid basis for the military strength of the Haganah.
in independent israel – 1948–70
The achievement of independence obviously necessitated a reconsideration of the role of the Histadrut in national life. Some thought that the State could now perform most of the functions the labor movement had assumed during the Mandatory period and that the Histadrut should become purely a trade-union body, dealing only with wages and working conditions. The great majority of its leading members, however, believed that it should continue to combine the defense of the workers' standard of living with the provision of social services, the building of a labor economy, and cultural activity. According to this view, which was held by Mapai and Mapam (founded in 1948 by the union of Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, Left Po'alei Zion, and Aḥdut ha-Avodah), its centralized structure must be preserved in order to prevent particularist tendencies and exorbitant claims by pressure groups, to influence the allocation of the labor force to those places and trades in which it was required by national needs, and to mobilize public capital and labor potential in development areas which did not attract private enterprise.
In an address to the Eighth Convention of the Histadrut in 1956, David Ben-Gurion expressed this view:
During the period of the British Mandate, the Histadrut fulfilled governmental functions in the consciousness of a historic function and in the absence of Jewish governmental organs. On the founding of the state, the continuation of these functions is a superfluous burden on the Histadrut and a serious injury to the state… The Histadrut is not a rival or competitor of the state, but its faithful helper and devoted support. The labour movement, therefore, has a dual additional aim after the rise of the state:
(a) to mold the character of the state and make it fit to carry out to the full the mission of national and social redemption, and to strengthen and organize the workers for this purpose; and
(b) to initiate pioneering activities in the educational, economic, and social spheres which cannot be carried out by compulsion, law, and the governmental machine alone.
Thus, while the Histadrut's school system and the labor exchanges it ran in cooperation with the other labor federations were taken over by the state, the labor economy in agriculture, industry, and services, and social-welfare agencies, such as Kuppat Ḥolim and the provident and pension funds, were considerably expanded. At the same time, the Histadrut continued to carry out its trade-union functions, coordinating the wage claims and policies of the various sections and reorganizing its structure by establishing additional national trade unions. In several of the enterprises for which it was jointly responsible together with the Jewish Agency, such as the *Mekorot Water Corporation and *Zim Israel Navigation Company, the government supplied a steadily increasing share of the development capital and took over a larger part of the control.
The membership of the Histadrut has risen much faster than the growth of the population: from 133,140 (not counting housewives) at the beginning of 1948 to 448,390 in 1958 – 68% of the labor force – and 722,249 in 1969 – 78% of the labor force. Together with housewife members, the total grew from 180,600 in 1948 to 988,207 in 1969. The "population" of the Histadrut (including members' families) increased sixfold during the same period: from 267,912 to 1,631,607; with the religious labor federations, the total was 1,827,300 in 1969 – 64.4% of the country's population.
Political Forces in the Histadrut
In the elections to the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth conventions of the Histadrut, held in 1949, 1956, and 1960, Mapai kept its absolute majority with 57.6%, 57.4%, and 55.43% of the total vote. In 1949, Mapam had 34.43%, and when Aḥdut ha-Avodah seceded from it, the two left-wing parties together had 27.15% in 1956 and 30.95% in 1960. There was thus no serious challenge to the traditional view of the Histadrut's structure and functions, which was supported by all three parties. The small Ha-Oved ha-Ẓiyyoni (Progressive) and General Zionist Workers factions, which were in favor of limiting the Histadrut's activities, obtained less than 9% of the votes between them at their peak and, although represented in the federation's executive organs, had little influence on its policies. Mapam, Aḥdut ha-Avodah, and the Communists (who rose from 2.63% in 1949 to 4.09% in 1956 and dropped again to 2.80% at the Ninth Convention), however, hindered Mapai's efforts to ensure wage restraint by proposing higher rates of increase than the majority thought practicable and conducting sporadic agitation among the workers outside the framework of the Histadrut's governing institutions.
At the Tenth Convention, in 1966, there were three new features in the political set-up. Mapai joined with Aḥdut ha-Avodah to form the Alignment (Ma'arakh), which gained only a bare majority, 50.87%. *Rafi, which had broken away from Mapai under Ben-Gurion's leadership, also contested the elections, gaining 12.13%. Perhaps the most significant new departure, however, was the *Ḥerut Movement's decision to take part in the Histadrut elections despite its close association with the *Histadrut ha-Ovedim ha-Le'ummit, National Labor Federation, to which many of its members belonged. Together with its Liberal partners in the Ḥerut-Liberal Bloc (*Gaḥal), it formed the Blue-White Workers' Association (Iggud Ovedim Tekhelet-Lavan), which emerged as the second-largest group with 15.21%, Mapam (without Aḥdut ha-Avodah) obtaining 14.51%. However, Rafi, although many of its members believed in the absorption of Kuppat Ḥolim into a state health service and were not very enthusiastic about the labor economy, did not press its views; at the beginning of 1968 it merged with Mapai to form the *Israel Labor Party and thus joined the Alignment.
All the country's political parties, except the religious ones, took part in the elections to the 11th convention in 1969, at which the Israel Labor Party combined with Mapam in a more comprehensive Alignment, obtaining 62.11% of a reduced poll. The Ḥerut-Liberal Bloc increased its strength to 16.85%, and the Independent Liberals (formerly Ha-Oved ha-Ẓiyyoni) improved to 5.69%, while Ha-Oved ha-Dati, which had formed a part of the 1965 Alignment, gained 3.06% and the two Communist lists 4.04% between them. The presence of representatives of the Free Center, a splinter group which had broken away from Ḥerut (1.99%) and Ha-Olam ha-Zeh (1.33%) reinforced the Gaḥal challenge to the leadership – without, however, undermining the Alignment's control.
The post of secretary-general of the Histadrut, which is one of major influence in national affairs, was held by a succession of personalities of ministerial caliber: Pinḥas *Lavon (1949–51 and 1956–59), Mordekhai *Namir (1951–56). Aharon *Becker (1959–70), and Yiẓḥak *Ben-Aharon (from 1970). The last belonged to the Aḥdut ha-Avodah wing of the Israel Labor Party; all the others were members of Mapai.
The Labor Economy
The labor economy expanded rapidly during the first decade of the state, the numbers employed rising from 60,000 in 1949 to 174,000 in 1960, i.e., from about 6% to 9% of the population and almost 25% of the labor force. During the second decade, its growth was slower: in 1969 it employed 215,000, about 22% of the labor force; there were plans, however, for a renewed drive in the field of industry. Labor enterprises thus played a notable part in the provision of employment for new immigrants. In agriculture there was a considerable increase in the number of kibbutzim and an even larger one in the moshavim, the numbers employed in Histadrut agriculture rising to 74.7% of the national total in 1968. The Histadrut also played a large part in establishing industries in the new villages and towns and in extending transport, marketing, and shopping services to the development areas, especially in the early years, before government incentives to private industry began to take effect. Its role was conspicuous in construction, road building and other public works, harbor expansion and construction, and the extension of the area under citrus, previously the preserve of the private farmer, in which the share of the labor settlements grew to about 50%. *Solel Boneh, the biggest Histadrut enterprise, was reorganized in 1958, despite some opposition, on the initiative of Pinḥas Lavon. It was divided into a Building and Public Works Company, with over 22,000 employees and a turnover of il 462,000,000 in 1969, an Overseas and Harbors Works Company, operating in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, with a turnover of il 138,000,000, and Koor, an industrial holding company, with factories employing 12,000 and a turnover of il 700,000,000. *Tnuva, which handles over two-thirds of all farm produce and is increasingly active in exports, had a turnover, counting subsidiary food industries, of il 690,000,000 in 1969. Hamashbir Hamerkazi had about 550 affiliated cooperative enterprises, with a total turnover of some il 413,000,000, and its industries employed 1,750 workers with a turnover of il 118,000,000 (all figures for 1969). The Cooperative Consumers' Alliance had some 1,500 branches all over the country, including supermarkets in the large towns. Producers' cooperatives did not expand in the same degree, except for the passenger-transport companies, *Egged and Dan. Bank Hapoalim became the third-largest bank in the country with 150 branches (see Israel, State of: *Economic Affairs, section on Banking). Hundreds of cooperative housing societies raised the standards of workers' housing and enabled thousands of wage-earners to buy their own homes.
The kibbutzim, moshavim, and industrial and service cooperatives were troubled by the problem of hired labor, which was incompatible with their basic socialist principles. Rapid expansion made it impossible for their owner-members to dispense with the employment of outside labor, which aroused serious questions of social inequality. The problem was raised frequently at conferences of the Histadrut and its constituent bodies, and efforts were made to work for a solution by mechanization, automation, and assistance to hired workers to become full members of the cooperatives.
In 1955 the Histadrut decided on the establishment of joint management-labor advisory councils in some of its enterprises, but little was done by the managers to put the decision into effect. With the expansion of the centrally run concerns, which employed tens of thousands of workers, it was felt that they were beginning to lose their specific character as labor enterprises and that the employees saw little difference between them and private plants. The 86th Council of the Histadrut, in 1964, decided that the principle of workers' participation in management should be put into practice in the labor industries. A central department for labor participation, consisting of representatives of Ḥevrat ha-Ovedim and the Trade Union Department, was set up to carry out the decision. Workers' representatives were to be elected to the management of each plant to serve for not more than three years running. In these plants, the workers were also to receive a share in the profits. The tenth convention of the Histadrut in 1966 confirmed the decision, declaring: "The place of the Histadrut economy in the building and development of the country largely depends on the identification of the worker with his enterprise, and his participation in the responsibility for its management and maintenance." Up to 1970, joint management had been established in 15 enterprises.
The structure of employment in the Israeli economy has had an important influence on the Histadrut's wage policy. About half the wage earners – the highest percentage in any country outside the Communist world – are employed by the public sector: the civil service, local authorities. Jewish Agency and its institutions, Histadrut enterprises, and so forth. In addition, a large part of industry and agriculture is subject to government influence through subsidies, loans, licenses, and various incentives. Thus, some three-quarters of the workers are employed in undertakings over which some measure of public control is exercised in the national interest. In the public and semi-public sectors, a responsible labor organization like the Histadrut cannot be concerned merely with increasing the amount the worker takes out of the undertaking in the form of wages at the expense of the employer's profits, since exorbitant demands may have to be met, in the last analysis, from the pocket of the local taxpayer or the contributor to pro-Israel funds from abroad.
Furthermore, some 90% of wage earners are organized in the Histadrut or the religious labor federations which cooperate with its trade union department. The Histadrut also has a central strike fund, which can assist the workers in an authorized trade dispute even in a weakly organized sector. This gives it a much greater bargaining power than exists in other countries, even in times of slack employment, and certainly in normal times, when there is no significant shortage of jobs. Moreover, it does not represent a downtrodden class, but one of the major elements in the building of the country, whose representatives not only wield considerable power in the trade-union field and control an important sector of the economy, but, through the labor parties, have held a dominant position in parliament and government throughout Israel's history.
This massive power implies a great responsibility, to which the Histadrut's leadership has always been acutely sensitive. Its power has enabled it to lie down and, to a large extent, to enforce, an all-inclusive wage policy covering all industries and services, but lack of restraint in exercising it might have been disastrous to the economy. The Histadrut's wage policies have, therefore, always been based on the assumption that, while using its power to maintain and improve the workers' standard of living, organized labor must share in the responsibility for the future of the economy, since no one is more interested in its stability and progress.
C-o-L Allowances and Labor Contracts
At its seventh convention, in May 1949, the Histadrut decided to press for the maintenance of the cost-of-living allowance system, in order to preserve the real value of wages, while supporting the introduction of methods conducive to greater productivity, such as the institution of work norms with premiums for output above the norm, while assuring the worker of a fair minimum wage. In 1951, the cumulative cost-of-living allowances were merged with the basic wage, and the Histadrut demanded wage increases of 10–15%. In 1953 it was decided not to claim a further increase in the basic wage; pay was to rise only in accordance with increases in the cost of living and by increased premiums earned by greater productivity, with exceptions in backward undertakings. The same general policy was maintained in the following two years.
In 1955 the government appointed a committee headed by Israel Guri, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, to consider salaries in the civil service and public institutions, particularly the claims of senior administrative officials and members of the liberal professions, that the differentials between their pay and that of lower-grade employees had been narrowed by the effect of the cost-of-living allowances. The committee recommended a general pay increase, with increased differentials for higher and academic grades, and its recommendations were carried out.
In 1956 the Histadrut decided that, in view of the grave security situation, one-third of the increases granted to the senior civil servants should be frozen for the time being, while other workers should get a graduated increase of 5–15%. The full rates were paid in 1957, and the frozen amounts were repaid during that and the two following years. In January 1957, the basic wages were again consolidated with the accumulated cost-of-living allowance, and it was decided that collective agreements between workers and employers be signed once in two years. In 1958 there was no change in basic wages, but seniority increments were raised, employees belonging to the professions were given a special annual grant to cover the cost of professional literature, and the wages of professional and administrative staffs were increased to cover overtime payments.
In 1959 and 1960 a number of changes were instituted: the addition of another grade at the top of the scale in industry and construction; higher family allowances for industrial workers; a special holiday allowance to cover hotel or recreation home expenses; an increase of 2% in employers' contribution to building workers' pension funds; and the preservation of seniority allowance on promotion for civil servants (who had previously started at the basic salary for the new grade).
At the ninth convention, in the latter year, it was decided in principle that further general increases in wages should be linked with rises in the net national product, and in 1962 the Histadrut established an independent institute, staffed by economists and statisticians, to produce objective figures on the level of national productivity which would serve as criteria for future wage policy.
In 1961 the problem of salaries in the public service again became acute. In the course of time, special salary scales had been instituted for employees belonging to various professions: physicians, technicians, engineers, journalists, social workers, and so forth. There were 20 different scales, resulting in many inconsistencies and frequent claims by those who felt themselves unfairly treated in comparison with members of other professions. Toward the end of 1961, the government appointed another committee, headed by the governor of the Bank of Israel, David *Horowitz, to propose a reform of the system. In the meantime, administrative staffs were paid advances on account of the wage increases expected after the conclusion of the committee's work. The Horowitz Committee reported in 1963, recommending the institution of a single scale for the entire civil service, with the exception of teachers, regular army, police, and prison staffs, and drafted conversion tables for the transfer of all employees to the new scale. The government and the Histadrut, however, felt that automatic conversion would perpetuate the inequalities between the various scales, and it was decided, instead, to carry out a comprehensive job evaluation, so that each employee's grade should be decided according to the work he was doing. The determination of the grades of the various classes of employee was a prolonged process, lasting several years. Owing to pressures exercised by staff representatives and the grant of an 18% increase to professional workers in 1965 in order to keep up differentials, the total civil service wage bill increased by one-third.
In 1963 it was decided to make no change in the existing labor contracts, in order to support the government's policy of economic stabilization following the devaluation of the Israel pound in 1962, but in 1964 the Histadrut decided, in view of a rise in productivity, that wages should be raised by 3% in that and the following year. In addition, family allowances of il 6 per month for each of the first three children were instituted through an equalization fund (the fourth and subsequent children were already covered by the family allowance scheme of the National Insurance Institute; see Israel, State of: *Health, Welfare, and Social Security, section on Social Security). In 1965 these allowances were taken over by the Institute and financed by a levy on employers of 1.8% of wages. In 1966 the existing labor contracts were further renewed without change for a period of two years.
In view of the burden of increased defense expenditure after the *Six-Day War (1967), the Histadrut made no further wage claims when these agreements expired, so that wages were largely frozen for a period of two years. In 1970 it was felt that complete restraint could no longer be justified and that increased productivity during the past four years warranted a wage increase of some 8%. However, in view of the security situation and the drastic increase in the adverse balance of payments, a package deal was concluded between the Histadrut, the government, and the employers' organizations, providing for a 4% rise in the cost-of-living allowance and another 4% wage increase to be paid in government bonds, while the government undertook not to raise taxes and the employers not to increase prices, as well as to invest a further 4% of wages on government bonds. A committee representing the three parties was appointed to supervise the implementation of the agreement.
During the past decade the Histadrut's centrally imposed wages policies were under constant pressure from various groups of workers who felt that they were entitled to higher wages and, in most cases, manned services, where a stoppage would produce considerable inconvenience to the public, such as the ports, the posts, or electricity supply. The tendency toward decentralization, as well as the strong loyalties of the workers to their directly elected local or sectional committees at the expense of their allegiance to the more distant central organs of the Histadrut, made wildcat strikes easy to call and difficult to control. In 1967–1971, the majority of the labor disputes, claims, and stoppages – many of which took the form of slowdowns, working to rule, or similar measures – were not officially recognized. Attempts by the Histadrut and local labor councils to impose discipline were generally unsuccessful, and most of the unofficial disputes ended in compromises, which gave the strikers at least part of their demands.
There were considerable and irregular fluctuations in strike statistics over the period. The number of strikes rose from 45 in 1948 to a peak of 90 in 1955, fell to 46 in 1958 and 51 in 1959, rose to 135 in 1960 and reached a peak of 288 in 1965 and 286 in the following year, falling in 1967 to 142 and in 1968 to 101. The number of strikers during the years 1949–56 varied between 7,308 in 1950 and 12,595 in 1952; it fell in 1957 to 3,648 and rose slightly during the following two years; it increased in 1960 to 14,420 and climbed steeply to a peak of 90,210 in 1965, falling again to 25,058 in 1967 and 42,176 in 1968. The number of days lost by strikes during the period varied from a low point of 31,328 in 1959 to a peak of 242,699 in 1962, going down to 58,286 and 73,153 in 1967 and 1968 respectively. A more significant index of the number of days lost per thousand wage earners showed no consistent trend. The figure was 281.0 in 1949 and 235.1 in 1966, going down to 68.7 in 1959 and rising to 392.7 in 1957 and 447.3 in 1962. In 1967, the index fell to 99.5, rising slightly to 112.6 in 1968. In 1969 there was a slight increase in the number of strikers (44,500) and a considerable one in days lost (102,000). The year 1970 was a particularly bad one, with repeated disputes in the ports (especially in the new port of Ashdod), and prolonged strikes by nurses and secondary school teachers: 114,900 persons struck, and 390,000 days' work were lost.
Reliable statistics on the proportion of authorized to unofficial strikes are available only since 1960. Between that year and 1965 the percentage of strikers participating in authorized strikes varied from 5.5% to 19.3%, but it rose during the three subsequent years to 30%, 55%, and 69% respectively. Similar tendencies are shown by the figures for the number of days lost. In 1969 40%, and in 1970 44% of the strikes were authorized by the Histadrut. Most of the strikes during the years 1965–70 were in the public sector (excluding Histadrut concerns), the percentage varying from 39.5% in 1967 to 50% in 1965, 52.5% in 1968, 60% in 1969, and 55% in 1970. (No statistics on this point are available for earlier years.) Figures classifying strikes according to branch of economy show that in most years until 1964 the number of strikes and days lost were greatest in industry, followed by the public services, but from 1965 the public services were hardest hit by strikes.
While the total population increased about fourfold in the 20 years 1948–68, the number of persons insured in Kuppat Ḥolim grew more than sixfold: from 307,623 to 1,968,302, including members of the religious labor federations and certain other categories outside the Histadrut. The main increase took place in the years of mass immigration, as the great majority of the newcomers joined. In 1948, 35.3% of the total population and 43% of the Jewish population were insured with Kuppat Ḥolim; by 1968 these percentages stood at 70% and 82% respectively. It played an important part in providing remedial and preventive medical treatment for the new immigrants, established hundreds of clinics in new towns and rural centers, and taught the elements of hygiene to newcomers from backward countries. (See also Israel, State of: *Health, section on Kuppat Ḥolim)
In the early years of statehood there were a large number of small provident funds, reaching 328 in 1953, with 60,000 members, through which workers saved a regular percentage of their wages, with parallel contributions from the employers. The funds provided small loans and other services from time to time, with a lump sum payable upon retirement. This system was found to be unsatisfactory, and measures were taken to amalgamate small funds into large ones, which would provide pensions instead of lump sum payments. The first of these funds was that for Histadrut employees, founded in 1954. The largest is Mivtaḥim, which provides pension, holiday, and other payments for a large variety of workers, including casual laborers. There are also funds for clerks and officials, employees of Histadrut industries, members of cooperatives, agricultural workers, and building workers. Mivtaḥim and the last two funds also cover payments for holidays, work accidents, rehabilitation, where necessary, and so forth. Pension rates are raised in accordance with the rise in the cost-of-living and keep pace with wage increases. At the end of 1968 the total membership of the funds was over 350,000, together with their families about half the population of the country, and their accumulated capital amounted to more than il 20,000 million. The funds are under treasury supervision, and 80% of their capital must be invested in government-recognized securities. Most of the remainder is invested in securities issued by Gemul, the Histadrut investment company. Of the remaining 20%, about half is used for cheap loans to members for housing and so forth. The operations of the funds not only constitute a valuable local service but are of considerable economic importance as a method of saving and a source of capital investment.
When the World Federation of Trade Unions was founded after World War ii, the Histadrut cooperated fully with it, but when Communist influence grew in the wftu and it was left by many Western trade union federations, who formed the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the Histadrut, after heated debate, joined the latter in May 1950. The Histadrut maintains close ties with the member federations of the icftu and sends experienced trade unionists to advise on labor organization, particularly in Asia and Africa. Its representatives also play an important role in the 15 international federations representing specific trades. Many delegations and groups of students, particularly from developing countries, have come to Israel to study the Histadrut's methods and achievements. The trade unions in these countries are interested in the Histadrut's unitary structure, its success in integrating members with varied cultural and educational backgrounds, and its prominent role in national life. Its Afro-Asian Institute has become an important international center for labor studies.
The Histadrut also belongs to the International Cooperative Alliance, which represents cooperative movements in both Western and Communist countries, and Israel's cooperative economy has aroused widespread interest. Despite Israel's small size, Histadrut representatives play a prominent part in the work of the International Labor Office and are regularly elected to its governing body. The Histadrut's influence in all branches of the international labor movement is an asset of considerable political importance for Israel.
Educational and Cultural Activity
The Compulsory Education Law, 1949, maintained the "trend" system, under which the Histadrut was responsible for one of the four school networks. The Labor "trend," which was controlled by the Histadrut's Educational Center (Merkaz le-Ḥinnukh), aimed at "molding a self-reliant pioneering Jewish personality, imbued with the Zionist-Socialist ideal" and "imparting to the child the values of the labor movement in the country and a sense of participation in the fate of its people." It established new schools in many immigrant centers and in 1953 had some 900 schools and kindergartens, with over 3,000 teachers and 60,000 pupils, out of 3,210 institutions, 15,304 teaching posts, and 320,361 pupils in the entire Jewish educational system.
In 1953, when the Knesset passed the State Education Law (see Israel, State of: *Education), the labor schools were merged with those of the "general trend" to form the nucleus of the state educational system and ceased to be organized in a separate framework. However, the influence of its principles may be seen in the clause of the State Education Law which prescribes that state education shall be based, inter alia, "on training in agricultural labor and handicrafts; on fulfillment of pioneering principles; on the aspiration to a society built on liberty, equality, tolerance, mutual aid and love of fellowman."
The Histadrut's Cultural Department provides a variety of services for members in town and country. These include: lectures, films, publications and periodicals; organized trips; courses in Hebrew and geography, Bible, music, dancing, and the arts; clubs and libraries; educational books and materials; theater performances for immigrants; libraries for schools in immigrant centers, in cooperation with the Presidential Residence Fund; educational circles for the parents, and schools for trade union leaders. Volunteers were organized during the mass immigration period to help newcomers by teaching Hebrew and other subjects. In addition, the local labor councils engage in similar activities on their own initiative, and there is a wide network of cultural committees in towns and villages. There are special departments for the kibbutzim and the moshavim.
In the early years of statehood the Palestine Labor League continued to perform trade union functions on behalf of Arab workers, with the close cooperation of the Histadrut. Labor organization was stepped up in the Arab sector; Arabs could now find employment in the Jewish economy, receiving the same pay and conditions as Jewish workers, and the labor exchanges assured them of participation in the fair division of work. In November 1952 the Histadrut Council decided to open the Trade Union Department at all stages to Arab workers on the basis of complete equality, and grant them full rights in provident funds and other Histadrut mutual-aid institutions. At the end of 1953 a special section for Arab workers was established in the Trade Union Department. Trade union branches were established in Arab centers and, in mixed places of work, joint workers' committees were elected by Arab and Jewish workers.
In February 1959 the Histadrut Council decided on the admission of Arabs and members of other minority communities as full members. With the assistance and advice of the Histadrut, agricultural, industrial, consumers' and housing cooperatives were established in Arab centers. Kuppat Ḥolim opened general and mother-and-child clinics in Arab villages and towns. The Histadrut, especially through its youth and women's movements, maintains clubs and cultural activities in the Arab areas. Arab membership of the Histadrut grew from 6,427 (9,956 including housewives) in 1958 to 31,254 (50,446 including housewives) in 1969. The number of Arab members and dependents increased in the same period from 21,534 to 118,098 – 29% of the Arab population, compared with 10.1% in 1958.
After the reunification of Jerusalem, the Histadrut started to organize the workers among the 65,000 Arabs in the eastern part of the city. Under Jordanian rule, most of them had been badly paid and exploited, and the few trade unions had little influence. Despite the opposition of some Arab notables, about 5,000 workers joined the Histadrut, which tried to equalize their pay with that of the Jewish workers. Most of the Arab employers resisted the efforts, but compromises were reached with the hoteliers and some others. In 1970, there were 2,000 Jerusalem Arabs working for Jewish employers.
Kuppat Ḥolim opened a branch in East Jerusalem, which, after initial difficulties in finding Arab doctors and nurses and overriding the reluctance of Arab women to go to Jewish doctors, won acceptance. Arab trade unionists in Jerusalem took part in Histadrut courses on labor relations and submitted their candidacy in Histadrut elections. The Histadrut's work in the city was regarded as a significant contribution to understanding between Jews and Arabs.
The Women's Labor Movement
All women members – including housewives – are entitled to vote in the elections to *Mo'eẓet ha-Po'alot, the Women Workers' Council, which thus has a membership of almost half a million – 46% of the total. Housewives are organized in Irgun Immahot Ovedot, the Working Mothers' Organization, with branches all over the country. The women's movement has made an important contribution to the integration of the immigrants by teaching the women Hebrew, introducing them to the life of the country, and helping to look after the children. It has also done much to improve the status and conditions of Arab women. Its projects in Israel are assisted by the sister movement abroad, *Pioneer Women.
Youth and Sport
In 1959 *Ha-No'ar ha-Oved combined with the school youth movement, Ha-Tenu'ah ha-Me'uḥedet, to form a single organization of working and student youth. It has more than 100,000 members: some 40,000 of them, aged 14–18, in trade sections, which function as a kind of junior Histadrut, and the rest, aged 10–18, in groups for recreational and educational activities. The *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir youth movement (with 13,000 members) and Dror-Maḥanot ha-Olim (5,000), affiliated to *Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Me'hḥuad, are also, like their parent bodies, within the framework of the Histadrut.
*Ha-Po'el, with 85,000 members in 600 branches all over the country, is the largest sports organization in Israel, engaging in 17 types of sport. Its representatives play a prominent part in the governing bodies of the various sports, such as the Football Association (see also under *Sport). The Histadrut youth and sports movements have done much to bring new immigrants and their children into the mainstream of Israel life.
Ideology of Labor
Labor was one of the central themes, both ideologically and organizationally, which occupied the attention of the Jews at the beginning of their resettlement in the 1880s. Its ideology was developed by a number of leaders and thinkers, such as Ber *Borochov, Nachman *Syrkin, A.D. *Gordon, Joseph Ḥayyim *Brenner, Joseph *Trumpeldor, Berl *Katznelson, and David Ben-Gurion, on the basis of Zionist-Socialist analyses of the Jewish problem and the experience gained in the process of resettlement. For specific historical, religious, and social reasons, the occupations of the Jews in the Diaspora had been limited, for the most part, to finance, commerce, teaching, medicine, and law. Few were to be found in the basic sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, industry, transportation, and mining. The desire to renew the political life of the Jewish people in its historic homeland through the creation of a society in which Jews themselves would carry out all the organizational and economic functions required for its maintenance was thus combined with the concept of kibbush ha-avodah ("the conquest of labor"). This meant the establishment of a national economy with a varied and all-embracing productive and organizational framework, and the spiritual vocational and educational preparation of Jews to engage in all the occupations required in such an economy. Kibbush ha-avodah was linked with the ideal of ḥalutziyyut ("pioneering"), which inspired the individual not only to advocate and support the national revival, but to be ready himself to settle in the homeland as a ḥalutz, or pioneer, prepared to do any kind of work, however arduous, unaccustomed, or dangerous, that might be required at the time, to build this new national society (see *He-Ḥalutz).
At first, organized attempts were made to develop the basic, productive branches: agriculture, construction, and handicrafts. Settlement on the land, which was intended to create the agricultural base for the Jewish community in Palestine, was the central sphere of activity in the "conquest of labor" in the first 50 years of renewed national life. Later, in the 1920s and 1930s, construction and handicrafts developed, and so, to a certain extent, did administration, public services, and light industry, which were further expanded by the large wave of Jewish immigration from Germany that followed the Nazi assumption of power in 1933.
The advent of World War ii and the increased demand of the Allies for industrial products led to the development of heavy industry, including metals, textiles, and food processing. There was also a considerable technical advance in construction and road building, as a result of army orders, both in Palestine and in other places. At the same time there were significant changes in labor relations and the beginnings of labor legislation.
This process received a great impetus by the establishment of Israel in 1948. Large investments in the development of agriculture, services, administration, industry and mining, construction, sea, air, and land transportation, and all the occupations connected with national defense, widened the productive framework and increased the variety of work available. Labor relations, social conditions, and labor codes were partially transferred from the voluntary to the governmental level.
These events determined the stages of development and affected the status of labor. In the first stage, that of settlement on the land, there was a close identity between ownership and work. Jewish immigrants established villages and cultivated the land on their own farms. At this stage there was no substantial body of hired Jewish laborers, and the wage labor needed in agriculture came from the neighboring Arab villages. This division between Jewish employers, and Arab proletarians aroused the ideological opposition of young immigrants who came from Eastern Europe in the wake of the abortive revolution and the pogroms in 1905–06, especially in the Russian-ruled areas of Poland and Romania. Belonging to a class whose social and economic foundations were crumbling, influenced by revolutionary workers' movements, as well as the Zionist ideal, and having absorbed socialist principles on the role of labor in production and of the workers in society, these pioneers fought for the right to work on the Jewish farms. They regarded their own transformation into manual workers as a part of the social and national revolution of the Jewish people and as a precondition for the creation of a self-sustaining Jewish society and economy.
At this stage, which continued until the beginning of the 1920s, this Jewish working class was only a small part of the small Jewish community of about 60,000. It lacked vocational training and practical experience, but it had a highly developed working-class consciousness and struggled to develop a modern labor policy, achieve as high a wage level as possible, and establish labor relations similar to those accepted in Western countries. In fact, the theory of an ideological and trade union struggle preceded the development of the means of production in the Jewish community. The Jewish workers who came to the Land of Israel after the failure of the Russian Revolution in 1905, the immigrants of the Second Aliyah, regarded it as their mission to achieve a Zionist solution to the Jewish problem through immigration to the Land of Israel, building up a Jewish economy, and establishing progressive social patterns, and they saw the organization of labor as a basic part of that mission.
With the establishment at the beginning of the Second Aliyah of workers' political parties that carried out some trade union functions, as well as political activity, and the establishment, in December 1920, of the Histadrut (see above), which combined trade-union functions with social-welfare services and independent cooperative and workers' enterprises, a new stage was reached, both from an organizational point of view and from the angle of labor's influence in the Jewish community. In many respects the political and trade-union organization of the workers ran ahead of national, social, and economic development. In fact, the established standards and practices in labor relations, wages, and social conditions inside the yishuv, although based on voluntary agreements, largely determined the conditions of production.
The organizational structure, practices, and ideology of the Jewish labor movement were, therefore, from the very beginning on a standard characteristic of the advanced industrial countries. The Histadrut, which absorbed the bulk of the immigrants and represented the vast majority of the organized workers, even went beyond that stage by assuming many functions not normally accepted by trade-union organizations in other countries. It saw as its task the practical implementation of social and economic programs that other labor movements regarded as long-term political and social goals. These programs included setting up new villages (moshavim and kibbutzim), industrial and service undertakings, workers' cooperative and contracting enterprises, and public services whose guiding principle was the idea of avodah aẓmit ("self-labor" or "personal labor," i.e., that a man must live by the fruits of his own labor without exploiting the labor of others). This concept was the guiding principle in the determination and implementation of the Histadrut's labor policies.
The ideological principles, trade union policy, and organizational patterns of Israel labor were laid down and assumed the force of binding customs in the life of the yishuv during the British Mandatory regime (1918–48), when the level of governmental services was largely determined by the condition and needs of the backward Arab population. In the course of that period they reached a standard that was high even in comparison with those achieved by workers' movements and trade unions in Western countries. With the establishment of the State of Israel and the institution of its governmental laws and institutions, under labor political leadership, a new phase in labor relations began. The voluntary social achievements of the yishuv, which had been enforced by collective agreements between the Histadrut and the Manufacturers' Association (organized at the end of the 1920s), became part of the state labor code and the pattern of the country's life.
labor legislation in the mandatory period
Due to established custom in colonial territories and because of the possible effects on the Arab and governmental economies, the British Mandatory authorities were in no hurry to enact labor laws. For many years, in fact, they left almost unchanged the situation which they had inherited from the Ottoman Empire, in which relations between employer and employee were regulated by a section of the Mejelle which dealt with lease contracts (see *Legal and Judicial System). During the first 20 years of the Mandate, only a handful of labor laws were enacted: the Mining Ordinance (1925), which regulated safety conditions and prohibited, inter alia, the employment underground of women or children under 14, ordinances prohibiting the use of matches made with white phosphorus (1925), and a law enjoining the fencing of machinery (1928). Article 21 of the Criminal Code, concerning intimidation in labor disputes, the Defense (Trade Disputes) Order (1942), and the Defense (War Service Occupations) Regulations (1942) were concerned solely with meeting emergency needs.
An important, if belated, step was the establishment of a Department for Labor Affairs in 1943, largely under pressure of economic developments during World War ii. As if to make up for the backwardness in this field that had marked the period of British rule, the department set to work with dispatch in the few years left before the end of the Mandate, paying more attention to the advanced needs of the Jewish economy. The Accidents and Occupational Diseases Ordinance (1945), which provided for compulsory notification of accidents at work, or occupational diseases which caused more than three days' absence, marked a considerable advance, as did two other ordinances issued in the same year concerned with employment of women and children, which greatly improved health conditions at work. The Factories Ordinance (1946), which established standards of safety and hygiene, was a very important and progressive addition to Mandatory labor legislation. Three other ordinances that would also have improved the Mandatory labor code were issued in 1947, but never came into effect. They were the Trade Boards Ordinance, which was to set up machinery for establishing minimum wages and working conditions in backward industries; the Industrial Courts Ordinance, for the settlement of labor disputes through conciliation and arbitration; and the Trade Union Ordinance, to regulate the legal status of workers' and employers' organizations.
voluntary agreements during the mandatory period
While the Mandatory government concentrated most of its attention on safety conditions, the Jewish community had a large measure of internal autonomy in its labor relations. In the absence of adequate legislation, it established practices and customs which, though voluntary, were firmly adhered to, as attempts to violate them were frustrated by the pressure of the organized community, which was led by the labor movement. This autonomy was reinforced by a High Court ruling to the effect that accepted custom in labor relations was legally binding. An eight-hour work day, annual vacations, severance pay, allocation of work through labor exchanges according to agreed priorities, rest on the Jewish Sabbath and festivals, recognition of the trade unions, collective bargaining, and collective agreements became established practice.
In the early years, labor relations in the Jewish community were concerned mainly not with wages and working conditions, but with the employment of Jewish labor in the citrus groves, which was the main source of employment. Wages and working conditions were practically stable, with slight variations, from the beginning of the Mandate until the outbreak of the World War ii, so far as Jewish workers organized in the Histadrut were concerned, and were not, therefore, a serious cause of labor disputes. Tension in the labor sphere was due mainly to unemployment and charges of unfair distribution of the available jobs.
The Histadrut, the General Federation of Jewish Labor, was the largest and most influential workers' organization, but there were also two others, organized along political and ideological lines. The demonstratively secular character of the Histadrut at the time, both in outlook and in practical programs, led to the formation of a religious workers' organization, *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi, which later joined the Histadrut's medical-insurance fund and trade union department, while maintaining its separate framework for other affairs. There was also the National Labor Federation (*Histadrut ha-Ovedim ha-Le'ummit), organized in 1934 under the aegis of the Revisionist Party, which opposed the Histadrut's socialist outlook and some of its trade union principles – especially the use of the strike weapon. From the beginning it had its own trade union department and medical-insurance fund.
In 1925 the Zionist Executive in Jerusalem intervened in a dispute between Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi and the Histadrut, when the contracting company of the former engaged workers without using the Histadrut's labor exchange. This intervention, which was intended to avoid direct interference by the Mandatory government, created a precedent. In the early 1930s the number of labor disputes increased as a result of the growth in the numbers of wage earners and of plants. In the course of a full-scale debate on the problem at the Zionist General Council in 1934, there was a demand for the conclusion of labor contracts which should assure fair labor conditions for the workers "within the economic possibilities of the economy" and, on the other hand, "a reasonable level of output, especially from the agricultural laborer." The meeting decided that the agreements should be based on
(1) reasonable working conditions for the employees and adequate productivity;
(2) obligatory resort to arbitration;
(3) the establishment of labor exchanges on a basis of parity between workers and employers, the chairman and secretary being agreed upon by both sides;
(4) the establishment of a labor exchange center under the *Va'ad Le'ummi to supervise the local exchanges and appoint the chairman and secretary wherever the two sides failed to agree.
At the same time, the Labor Department of the Jewish Agency began to concern itself actively in labor disputes. This department, which was headed by Yiẓḥak *Gruenbaum, with representatives of the Histadrut and Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi, was the highest authority in all such matters from its foundation in 1935 until the establishment of the state. During this period it dealt with more than 2,500 disputes, for the most part concerning collective agreements, and through its decisions it set the seal of approval on working conditions and practices worked out by collective agreements. Among other things, it developed a system for the resolution of labor disputes by arbitration or the good offices of the department, which was also recognized as a court of appeal.
labor legislation in the state of israel
The emergence of Israel as an independent state in 1948 marked a turning point in the approach to labor relations. The Mandatory government had not had time to put the Industrial Courts Ordinance (1947) into effect; nor did the Provisional Government of Israel in its early days find time to breathe life into this stillborn enactment. In practice, the procedures and customs which had been accepted amongst the Jews of Palestine remained in force. The government set up a Labor Relations Department in the Ministry of the Interior, which inherited the functions of the Labor Department of the Jewish Agency and, after the elections, to the First Knesset was transferred to the Ministry of Labor.
Before long the government submitted to the Knesset the first labor law: the Ex-soldiers (Reinstatement in Employment) Law (1949), which was aimed at alleviating the difficulties caused by conscription for the War of Independence. It was followed by a lengthy series of labor laws, many of which gave legal force to procedures already established by custom and agreement within the Jewish community. They dealt, inter alia, with hours of work and rest (1951), annual leave (1951), employment of youth (1953), apprenticeship (1953), employment of women (1954), enforcement of collective agreements (1957), settlement of trade disputes (1957), penalties for excessive delays in payment of wages (1958), labor exchanges (1959), severance pay (1963), equal pay for men and women (1964), and labor tribunals (1969).
Under the employment Services Law (1959), employers must engage employees, and employees must accept employment, through the state labor exchange. There are exceptions for the civil service above a certain grade, managerial staff, posts requiring higher education or special training, and persons employing a spouse, parent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, or cousin. The manner in which applicants are referred to jobs is laid down in special regulations which generally take into account the nature of the occupation, the type of work, social condition, disablement, recent demobilization from the armed services, etc. The law prohibits any discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, religion, nationality, party allegiance, etc. This law legalized the situation which was achieved in the pre-state period by a long struggle on the part of the workers, who established their own labor exchanges in order to prevent unorganized labor and protect new immigrants against closed-shop tendencies that might develop in particular occupations or localities.
Anyone seeking employment is registered at the labor exchange nearest his home. His trade or profession and grading are registered on the production of recognized certificates or on the basis of an examination by a qualified authority. He (or she) must reregister daily or at longer intervals according to his trade or profession. The labor exchange receives requests for staff, allocates them among the registered job seekers, and provides vocational counseling for those who lack skills or wish to change their occupation. Its services are given free of charge. There are 15 regional exchanges, divided into 164 branches and sections, as well as 41 branches in Arab areas and 68 branches for young people aged 14–18. Professional men and women are served by a special exchange with branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beersheba. There is also an exchange for seamen in Haifa as well as special provisions for domestic servants, with seven branches in the large cities.
Labor relations in Israel are based upon a system of collective agreements, or labor contracts, which is recognized in the Collective Agreements Law (1957). These agreements, which are signed by an employer or employers' association on the one hand and the representative of the trade union on the other, lay down conditions of work, including wages, social benefits, working hours, shifts, and labor relations, as well as rules of conduct and discipline, engagement of staff and the termination of employment, negotiation procedures, the settlement of disputes, and the rights and obligations of the parties. Collective agreements may be "special," applying to a particular enterprise or employer, or "general," applying to the whole or part of the country or to a specific type of work.
Collective agreements were to be registered by the chief labor relations officer at the Ministry of Labor. The representative organizations conclude skeleton agreements, which are adapted to conditions in each industry by subsidiary agreements negotiated between the trade union or labor council concerned in each case and the appropriate section of the employers' organization. The minister of labor is empowered to issue an order extending the application of the general collective agreement to employees or employers who are not organized in a trade union or employers' organization. In general, collective agreements are negotiated every two years by the Histadrut and the Manufacturers' Association, which was established in 1924. In 1964, a roof organization called the Coordinating Committee of Economic Organizations was set up to represent the various employers' organizations in agriculture, industry, commerce, etc.
The Trade Union Department of the Histadrut speaks for about 90% of the workers, including, by agreement, members of Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi and *Po'alei Agudat Israel, the labor wing of *Agudat Israel. It consists of representatives of the national trade unions, but in determining its policies it is guided not only by the immediate needs of the workers but also by the long-term interests of the national economy. Histadrut ha-Ovedim ha-Le'ummit, which is in favor of compulsory arbitration in labor disputes, has its own trade unions and does not cooperate with the department. In each town there is a directly elected labor council (mo'eẓet po'alim), which deals with local matters.
the workers' committee and the local labor council
The basic unit of trade union representation is the workers' committee (va'ad ha-ovedim), which is elected by all the workers (whether they belong to the Histadrut or one of the smaller federations) in each factory, office, shop, etc. It consists of three to nine members, depending on the size of the enterprise, elected every two to three years. Theoretically, voting is on an individual basis, but in practice the workers usually support the candidates nominated by their own parties. Labor councils are elected in each town by proportional representation in the same way, and at the same time, as the national convention of the Histadrut, lists of candidates being submitted by the political parties. The workers' committee, together with the local labor council, represents the workers in all matters connected with the labor contract and protects the rights specified in the contract or the regulations founded on it, as well as rights laid down by law. It discusses with the management any questions of labor conditions or discipline that may arise from time to time and has equal representation on productivity committees. It also organizes mutual aid projects and serves as a channel for information from the management on the position of the enterprise, production plans, technological changes, and so forth. A representative of the local labor council may be invited in advance to join in the discussion of particularly important matters; in any case, he is called in when the workers' committee fails to reach agreement with the management. The committee reports regularly to general meetings of the workers, to which it may submit matters of special importance for a decision by majority. Any decision involving a strike must, according to the regulations, be taken by secret ballot and be approved by the labor council.
Wage rates and payments for social benefits in the various branches of the economy are fixed in the annual or biennial labor contracts, in accordance with the wages policy laid down biennially by the Trades Union Department of the Histadrut through negotiation between the trade unions and the employers' organizations. Changes generally take the form of wage increases and higher cost-of-living allowances.
During the British Mandatory regime, the agricultural laborer's wage was generally taken as a basis, the Jewish worker's earnings usually being some 25% higher than the Arab's. In many Jewish public services, such as the Zionist Organization, the Histadrut, the schools, and the health services, the "family-wage" system was in force. Under this system, all employees earned more or less equal wages (with differentials of 20–50% for various professional standards), supplemented by allowances for dependents. During World War ii there was a sharp rise in prices, due to the decline in the exchange rate and increased demand for consumer goods and services, coupled with an increased demand for labor for the developing industries and services for the British army. There was a growing need to adjust wage rates to the changing price level. The solution was found in the system of cost-of-living allowances, under which the nominal wage was raised at fixed intervals in accordance with the rise in the cost-of-living index.
After the establishment of the State of Israel the system at first remained in force in the main branches, but the development of the economy, which called for more skill and managerial responsibility, led to the abolition of the "family" system and demands for higher differentials. Up to the economic recession which started in 1964/65, the system of cost-of-living allowances, adjusted annually, had a great influence on wage levels. From 1965 onward, however, both wage rates and differentials began to rise, largely as a result of regrading in the civil service and the pressure of professional men's organizations.
In the biennial negotiations between labor and employers, on which the government exercises an indirect but powerful influence, general wage increases are based on the average rate of increase in output, with adjustments according to the situation in different industries and the state of the labor market. In many enterprises workers receive premiums in return for output in excess of the accepted norm. This system is encouraged by the trade unions, the employers' associations, and the government. There is a growing use of scientifically measured norms, the contribution of technological progress to productivity being taken into account in order to encourage the introduction of automation.
See also section on Jewish Labor Organizations.
social benefits and deductions from wages
The net wage received by the worker consists of the gross wage paid by the employer minus income tax and other deductions. The gross wage includes: basic salary in accordance with accepted wage rates; cost-of-living allowance, fixed by agreement between the Histadrut and the employers in accordance with the annual fluctuations in the consumer's price index, which is determined by the government's Central Bureau of Statistics; seniority increment for each year of employment in a given enterprise – ranging from il 5 to il 15 per annum up to a fixed "ceiling" of years of service or total increment; allowance for a wife, laid down in the labor agreement; children's allowances for the first three children, paid out of an equalization fund financed by the employers collectively through the National Insurance Institute (allowances for the fourth and subsequent children come directly from national insurance – see Social Security and Welfare).
The following deductions are made from the salary: income tax, national insurance contributions (see Social Security and Welfare), and pension fund contributions; in many concerns, by custom or agreement, deductions are also made at source for Histadrut membership fees (covering trade union and Kuppat Ḥolim), municipal rates, and contributions to national institutions. The employer's contribution for social benefits includes: basic pension – 11% of gross wage, excluding overtime and bonuses (with 5% more paid by the employee); comprehensive pension – 11% of gross wage (with a further 5% from the employee); parallel fee – 2.7% of wages, paid by the employers to the medical insurance fund; vacation pay – 4% of wage to cover paid holidays for those employed less than 75 consecutive days (workers with permanent status receive their wages without interruption throughout the vacation period); vacation expenses – cost of accommodation in a recreation home for a certain number of consecutive days at an agreed rate per day, as fixed in the labor contract; sick leave, up to one month per year – the right being cumulative within limits laid down in the labor contract. Salary for a "13th month" is paid in some undertakings and offices. In some offices or institutions, generally in the academic professions, there is a special payment, up to an agreed maximum, for professional literature. Some employers make a monthly deposit to meet the cost of severance pay. In certain posts, mainly managerial, the employer provides a car and pays for upkeep and fuel up to a fixed number of kilometers. He may pay the cost of a home telephone, the employee making a fixed contribution to cover the cost of his private calls.
Permanent status may be granted under the terms of the labor contract after a trial period of six months, which may be extended by prior notice for a further six months. An employee with permanent status may not be dismissed without the agreement of the workers' committee, and only in accordance with an agreed order of priority. In some academic posts senior employees are given a sabbatical year with pay. In case of bankruptcy, employees are guaranteed priority over other creditors for the payment of their wages up to a sum of il 2,100, as well as severance pay up to il 1,050 per employee.
inspection, safety, and hygiene
Many factors increased the danger of work accidents after the establishment of the state: the rapid development of industry, construction, and transportation; the expansion of the electricity network; automation and the use of more sophisticated equipment; and the employment of new immigrants and untrained workers. To meet the situation, a considerable body of safety legislation, along the lines of international conventions, was enacted in a short time to comply with local needs. The powers and scope of the factory inspectorate were extended in the Labor Inspection (Organization) Law of 1954, which also established the Safety and Hygiene Institute, jointly run by the Ministry of Labor, the employees, and the employers' organization, for the prevention of industrial accidents by research, guidance, and publicity. Regulations have been issued specifying safety measures required in various occupations. Industrial injuries compensation is provided through national insurance.(See Table: Work Days Lost.)
hours of work and rest
The standard working day in Israel consists of eight hours and the working week of 47 hours. If more than eight hours are worked, whether for unforeseen reasons or under an official overtime permit, each of the first two hours in excess of eight is regarded for wage purposes as an hour and a quarter, and every additional hour as one and a half hours. Every employee is entitled to 36 hours rest per week. The weekly holiday day is Saturday for Jews, Friday for Muslims, and Sunday for Christians. Religious holidays recognized by the government are rest days for workers of the religion concerned, and national holidays are rest days for all workers. Work on the weekly rest day is allowed by special permission of the Ministry of Labor if it is essential for the defense of the state, the safety of the person or of property, the prevention of serious injury to the economy, the maintenance of a continuous work process, or the supply of the essential needs of the public or part of it. A general permit of this kind may be granted by a committee composed of the prime minister, the minister of religious affairs, and the minister of labor. For wage purposes, each hour worked on the day of rest is regarded as not less than one and a half hours.
Under the Annual Leave Law (1951), every employee is entitled to an annual vacation with pay totaling at least 12 days, not including weekly rest days and national and religious holidays. Shift workers receive four additional days. Every employee must be given an annual vacation of at least seven consecutive days; in certain occupations, specified in the regulations, a longer period is obligatory. Collective agreements also provide for longer vacations for workers in certain posts, whether at higher levels of responsibility or in certain occupational grades. Day laborers who are constantly changing their place of work receive a cash payment in lieu of vacation. This is paid through a special fund to which the employer contributes 4–5% of wages.
An employee is entitled to accumulate vacation periods, with employer's consent, up to a stipulated maximum (65 days for civil servants) and during a stipulated period in accordance with the labor contract. By mutual agreement an employee may receive a cash payment in lieu of vacation in excess of the seven obligatory days. The dates of the vacation for each employee are fixed by the management in consultation with the workers' committee, taking the wishes of the employee and the needs of the enterprise into account. The following are not included in the vacation period, but are stipulated in collective agreements: sickness during the vacation, if the employee informs the employer within 24 hours; periods of reserve duty or military service; days of mourning, i.e., seven days from the death of a member of the family, in accordance with religious custom; special leave of one day for a son's or daughter's wedding or the birth of a child, and three days for the employee's own wedding. Jewish religious holidays are New Year (Rosh Ha-Shanah) two days, Day of Atonement one day, Sukkot two days, Passover two days, and Shavuot one day, as well as Independence Day and two optional days. For civil servants, the latter may be chosen from the eve of the Day of Atonement, Hoshana Rabba (7th day of Sukkot), the Tenth of Tevet, Purim, the eve of Passover, Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, Israel Defense Forces Remembrance Day, Lag ba-Omer, the first of May, 17th Tammuz, and the Ninth of Av.
Under most labor contracts employees are entitled to an annual allowance sufficient to pay for seven days' accommodation in a recreation home or inexpensive hotel, on condition that he takes at least ten consecutive days' vacation during the same year. This right is acquired after three years' service to the same employer (two years for employees under 18). Day workers are entitled to allowances for four to ten days, depending on seniority and other factors, in return for a contribution of 0.5% of wages to a special fund, matched by a similar contribution from the employer. Permanent employees are entitled to paid sick leave usually up to 30 days per year, which may be accumulated on terms laid down in the labor contract. Employees are insured through the insurance funds and are entitled to up to seven months' sick leave per year.
employment of women
Women have the right to work, without discrimination, at equal pay for equal value of work in the same jobs as men, so long as they can do the job in accordance with their physical capacity without impairing their health. Jewish women played a prominent part in the work of the pioneers, in settlement on the land and the "conquest of labor," in the Jewish underground defense forces, and in political effort. The government makes special efforts to increase the share of women in the labor force. The role of women is particularly important in the liberal professions and primary, secondary, and higher education, in administration, in retail distribution, in industries such as food processing, textiles, and electronics, and in various agricultural jobs. Women are constantly penetrating into vocations once regarded as male preserves.
In 1969 women constituted 31.5% of the labor force, which is lower than in most developed industrial countries. The reason is that a large portion of the Jewish population came from Muslim countries, where it was not customary for women to work outside the home. Among the second generation there is a growing tendency to go out to work, which is more marked where the educational level is higher. The fact that girls aged 18–20 (with the exception of those excused on religious grounds) serve in the armed forces increases their readiness to seek work on the completion of their service. The minister of labor is empowered by law to prohibit or restrict the employment of women in a particular job or industrial process which may seriously impair their health. Women may not be employed on night shift, with the exception, under certain conditions and subject to the minister of labor's approval, of work in managerial posts, the customs, telephone exchanges, the police, airline stewardesses, hospitals, newspapers, hotels and restaurants, places of entertainment, etc. By law, a working mother is assured 12 weeks' maternity leave, beginning six weeks before the birth, if the mother chooses, as well as to a maternity grant from the National Insurance Institute. She is also entitled to be absent from work during pregnancy and breast-feeding, or up to one hour's leave per working day for the purpose of breast-feeding.
employment of juveniles
The employment of, or peddling by, children under 14 is forbidden, but they may be employed in art or entertainment with the approval of the minister of labor. The employment of young persons (aged 14–18) is forbidden in any place which is likely to have an undesirable effect on their physical, emotional, or moral development, such as hotels, cafés, dance halls, mental institutions, mines, abattoirs, various types of manufacture, and so forth, as specified in a list of occupations published by the ministry. Young workers must undergo medical examination before starting work and at six-month intervals, depending on the nature of the job, up to the age of 21. They may be employed for no more than eight hours per day and no more than 40 hours per week, and those under the age of 17 must not be employed at night without the approval of the minister of labor.
According to the law, every young person aged 14–18 in employment must be enabled by his employer to learn a trade, and the employer must not make deductions from his earnings for absence for the purpose of attending recognized lessons. Guidance in the choice of a trade by a qualified vocational counselor must be provided. The Apprenticeship Law (1953) empowers the minister of labor to define certain trades as apprenticeship trades, in which the employment of young persons is prohibited unless they are learning the trade through an approved program of study. During his training, the apprentice is paid in accordance with the collective agreement for the trade. For 1–1½ days per week he is required to attend a special school for apprentices, where he studies the theoretical aspects of his trade and continues his general education. After three years' apprenticeship, he generally receives a trade certificate. In 1970 there were 23 such schools, attended by about 15,000 apprentices; a total of some 50,000 apprentices had qualified since the passing of the law.
Labor contracts usually obligate the employer to consult the workers' committee and receive its consent before dismissals are carried out. Grounds for dismissal may be low output, infractions of discipline, sabotage, unjustifiable absence, or unpunctuality. Most labor contracts call for at least two weeks' notice of dismissal. When staff has to be reduced, it is generally stipulated that the last-in-first-out rule be observed, with certain exceptions: for instance, relative levels of skill and social circumstances, such as size of family, are also taken into account. A dismissed employee is entitled to severance pay if he has worked for the same employer for at least one year without interruption, or in two consecutive years in the case of seasonal employees. An employee who resigns is not entitled by law to severance pay, but in many cases he receives it by agreement with the employer. Resignation due to impaired health, change of residence due to marriage, a move to an agricultural settlement, or the resignation of a mother within nine months of the birth of a child for the purpose of looking after the child, or when she has adopted a child, are regarded as equivalent to dismissal for the purpose of severance pay. Severance pay is also awarded in case of resignation due to proven and substantial worsening of working conditions or special circumstances connected with labor relations. The rate of severance pay laid down by law is one month's wages for every year of employment on monthly salary by the same employer, and two weeks' wages for every year during which a worker has been employed on a daily basis. In general, a month's salary, for the purpose of calculating severance pay, is the salary of the last month, but with regard to the years before 1964 there is a special basis for calculation which is specified by law.
From the early days of Zionist pioneering, when Jewish traders, shopkeepers, and students tried to turn themselves into farmers, vocational training in the widest sense of the term (then called in German Umschichtung) was a fundamental part of the national goal. (Various aspects of the question during the Ottoman and Mandatory periods are dealt with in the section on Aliyah and Absorption.) In independent Israel the vocational training system was built on the foundations established by the Jewish Agency and other voluntary bodies. It started by extending the apprenticeship system and setting up various courses for adults. Later, adult vocational centers were established throughout the country and furnished with up-to-date equipment. The network of vocational schools grew with the help of *ort (Organization for Rehabilitation and Training), which established well-equipped vocational high schools and also engaged in the training of apprentices.
Vocational high schools are owned and run by public bodies and supervised by the Ministry of Education and Culture. In 1970 there were 278 such schools with 51,000 pupils, run by: ort-Israel – 84 schools with 13,000 pupils; the Amal network of the Histadrut – 25 schools and 5,250 pupils; local authorities – 94 schools with 15,000 pupils; Youth Aliyah – 22 schools and 32,000 pupils; Agudat Israel – 24 schools with 2,000 pupils; the Working Women's Council (Mo'eẓet ha-Po'alot) – 25 schools and 1,000 pupils; Mizrachi Women's Federation – four schools and 1,540 pupils; wizo – three schools and 1,250 pupils; the Hadassah Organization – two schools with 900 pupils; and other bodies with 30 schools and 5,600 pupils, most of them learning clerical skills. Students receive both vocational and general education for three or four years, leading to a recognized trade certificate. There are also vocational schools attached to specific industries, the curriculum including practical work on the factory floor. Courses are held for adolescent drop-outs (aged 14–18) from the high schools, the curriculum being devised to enable them to serve in the army in their trades, thus extending their period of training (for apprenticeship training, see above, section on Employment of Juveniles).
For adults, the Ministry of Labor runs specially equipped training centers, some established with outside assistance (e.g., technical aid from the U.S. government, the un, and the International Labor Office), giving 3–18-month courses depending on the trade. In 1970 there were 22 of these, with about 12,000 trainees. In addition, on-the-job training has been used to deal with the huge number of unskilled adults among the immigrants. The trainee is taught by a skilled tradesman until he is fit for normal employment, and the employer receives a subvention from the government in return for the training. Special attention is devoted to the training of tradesmen to the levels of practical engineer, instructor technician, and foreman, which provide a link between the graduate engineer and the artisan. The shortage of staff at these intermediate levels is one of the more serious defects in Israel's labor force. To fill this gap, the Government Institute for Technical Training has been set up jointly by the Ministries of Labor and Education and Culture, with the technical aid of the International Labor Organization. The institute runs day and evening courses, directly and through the Technion, the universities, and the ort network. About 6,000 tradesmen attend courses each year. The aptitudes and inclinations of young workers are examined in special vocational guidance centers. There are also diagnosis and observation centers to guide handicapped persons in the choice of a vocation.
arbitration and mediation
Labor contracts contain provisions for settling differences, generally by agreed arbitration. Sometimes the parties agree on a single arbitrator and sometimes an arbitration court, consisting of one representative each of employees and the employer, and a third person agreed upon by both sides, is set up. This procedure is normally used in disputes over the interpretation of clauses in the labor contract, but not where a new demand is made. Where agreed arbitration is not used, or where the issue is not dealt with in the labor contract, the good offices of the chief labor relations officer at the Ministry of Labor, whose powers are derived from the Settlement of Trade Disputes Law (1957), are invoked. His authority applies to disputes between employers and employees, between an employer and a trade union, or between one trade union and another, but not to disputes between individuals. Either party to a dispute may notify the chief labor relations officer, but in the event of a threat to strike, or to impose a lockout, the party which makes the threat must make the notification.
The officer may mediate in person or appoint a mediator; in general, he prefers the two parties to settle the dispute themselves. Each party must give reasoned replies to the claims of the other side and appear before the mediator at his demand. The parties are not compelled to accept the mediator's proposals, but any signed settlement, whether reached by the parties themselves or in response to the mediator's proposals, has contractual force. The same applies to the ruling of an arbitrator or arbitration commission nominated by the chief labor relations officer when the labor contract provides for agreed arbitration.
There is no compulsory arbitration law in Israel. Attempts to introduce such a law have never secured a majority in the Knesset. Opponents of compulsory arbitration argue that it restricts the freedom of the workers to fight for their interests, that in a democratic country there cannot be control of wages without parallel control of profits, and that, in any case, compulsory arbitration cannot be effectively enforced. Proposals to introduce compulsory arbitration in essential services have also been rejected for the same reasons, as well as because of the difficulty of defining essential services.
strikes and lockouts
The right to strike is recognized in Israel: strikers and employers imposing a lockout enjoy immunity under the Collective Agreement Law (1957) and the Civil Damages Ordinance. According to the Histadrut's rules, strikes must have the approval of its competent authorities, but wild-cat strikes are not infrequent.
Most strikes are over claims for pay rises and break out before the signature of a new labor contract. The number of strikes over dismissals, the transfer of enterprises, or non-recognition of labor unions is relatively small; such issues are usually settled through the arbitration machinery specified in the labor contracts. About 60% of the strikes which took place in the decade ending in 1969 were over pay and related issues, 20% over delays in the payment of wages, 10% over dismissals, and 10% over the signing of agreements and the recognition of trade unions; very few were over classification, transfer of factories, and other matters. Strikes are not more frequent in Israel than in other industrialized countries, but in view of the military and economic pressures to which Israel has been subject for a long time, they constitute a grave economic and social burden.
According to an amendment to the Settlement of Trades Disputes Law, passed in 1969, employees or employers must give 15 days' notice to the chief labor relations officer at the Ministry of Labor and to the other party of their intention to declare a strike or a lockout as the case may be, in order to enable the two parties to settle the dispute through direct contact or the chief labor relations officer to attempt to settle it by mediation. Labor contracts include provisions for the settlement of disputes through accepted forms of arbitration. In the great majority of cases, agreements for the settlement of disputes also settle the issue of strike pay. The Histadrut has a strike fund from which grants or loans are made to workers who are on a recognized strike. Neither strikes nor lockouts are regarded in law as a breach of contract, and those responsible are not, therefore, liable for damages – except in cases of sabotage.
unemployment and unemployment insurance
Fluctuations in the dimensions of immigration and the rate of economic growth, as well as the changing security situation, have led to a varying incidence of unemployment from time to time. A further cause of periodic unemployment has been the dependence of a large part of the Israel economy on construction, which is affected by fluctuations in supply and demand. To alleviate unemployment, the government initiated public works financed from the public purse, such as afforestation, land reclamation, drainage, archaeological excavations, and road construction and maintenance. Relief work of this kind was allocated to the unemployed, each applicant receiving 12–24 days' work per month-depending on the number of persons he had to support. Wages were linked with those of agricultural laborers. Special programs, with five hours' work a day five times per week, were instituted for those with limited ability to work.
Total unemployment figures include both those actually unemployed and those employed on relief work. Two sets of data are published:
(a) manpower surveys, covering a statistical sample of those who make up the civilian labor force aged 14 and over, which define as unemployed those who did not work at all during the week to which the survey related; and
(b) the daily average of unemployed, which is calculated by dividing the total number of unemployment days during the month among those who registered as work seekers at the labor exchanges at least once a week, by the number of working days in the month.
The first set of data includes those who do not normally work; the second covers only those registered at the labor exchanges.
In 1965 it was decided that unemployment grants should be made from the public purse to those unemployed who, for one reason or another, could not be employed even on relief work. The grants, made to persons registered at the labor exchange who had been unemployed for at least 34 days, were the equivalent of 15 days' pay per month at il 7 per day for a single person, 19 days' pay at il 8 for a married man without children, and, according to a sliding scale, up to 24 days' pay at il 10 per day for a man with eight dependents or more. Proposals for the institution of unemployment insurance, financed partly by contributions from workers and employers, were under consideration in 1970.
The Labor Courts Act, establishing a separate judicial network for matters related to labor, came into force in 1969. These matters include labor laws, social conditions, and national insurance questions. The labor courts are empowered to adjudicate claims between employer and employee, disputes arising out of a special collective agreement, touching on the maintenance, applicability, implementation or infraction of the agreement, claims of an employee against a trade union, and any matter related to the National Insurance Law. The claims may relate to trade disputes, employment services, reinstatement of demobilized soldiers, compensation to employees on reserve duty, severance pay, delayed payment of wages, etc.
There is a national labor court, which is also a court of appeal, and four regional labor courts. Each regional labor court is composed of one judge and two lay members, one representing the employees and the other the employers. The national labor court is composed of three judges and one or two representatives each of labor and employers, depending on the case. The labor courts are not bound by the rules of evidence, except in special cases, and are empowered to use the procedure which they regard as best suited to serve the ends of justice. Parties may be represented by appointees of employers' organizations or trade unions, who need not be lawyers.
There are three types of retirement-insurance schemes:
(a) The national insurance old-age pension (see Israel, State of: *Health, Welfare, and Social Security, section on Social Security and Welfare).
(b) Budgetary insurance entitles the employee to a pension on reaching retirement age (and in certain circumstances at a lower age) equal to 2% of his salary for every year worked, after not less than ten years' service. When an employee has started work after reaching the age of 40, the competent authority may increase his pension in accordance with customary or agreed rules. In this type of scheme, which is in force in the civil service, the employee makes no contribution to the cost of the pension.
(c) There are two types of insurance through pension funds. "Basic insurance" covers pension for the insured person, partial pension and a lump sum for his heirs, mutual life insurance for pensioners and active members of the fund, withdrawal grants, and loans to members. "Comprehensive" pension insurance provides, in addition, full pension for survivors and a full or partial disablement pension.
Contributions vary from 7.5–10% of wages for basic pension, 4–5% coming from the employee and the rest from the employer, and 13.5–16% for the comprehensive pension, the employee paying 4–5% and the employer the rest. Retirement age is 65 for a man and 60 for a woman, or earlier in certain occupations. If an employee continues to work beyond the retirement age, he receives a higher pension on retirement, up to 70% of his salary. The qualifying period of membership is ten years. Accumulated rights may be transferred from one pension fund to another under special conditions laid down in the regulations. An employee who stops working before reaching retirement age is entitled to a severance grant, which includes the accumulated total of his contributions and those of the employer, plus accumulated interest and linkage increments (related to changes in the rate of exchange or the cost of living). Alternatively, if he has at least ten years' contributions to his credit, he may opt to receive the grant on reaching retirement age or continue to pay his contributions in order to receive a full pension. Surviving dependents are entitled to payments ranging from 20% of the deceased's pension for an orphan who has lost one parent to 60% for a widow. Surviving relatives of a member of the fund who dies before acquiring pension rights receive a bereavement grant. A person holding comprehensive insurance for not less than three years is entitled to a disability pension, provided he began to work before the age of 55 (50 for a woman). The pension for a totally disabled person who is unable to work two hours per day is 50% of wages, plus 5% for every dependent (up to a maximum of 20%), plus 1% for every year of service. A partially disabled person receives a pension calculated on the basis of the percentage of disablement.
The Histadrut maintains seven pension funds: for employees of Histadrut institutions, industrial workers, building workers, workers in Histadrut enterprises, agricultural workers, office workers, and workers in cooperatives, excluding transport. There are also company insurance funds in banks, private companies, etc. The pension ranges from 35–40% of the last salary, on the completion of ten years' insurance, up to a maximum of 70% on the completion of 32–35 years.
Successive waves of immigration generally brought with them periods of considerable unemployment and a legacy of under-employment, from which, even in the changed circumstances of the 1960s, it was difficult to escape. Stress was laid on the need to build up the goods-producing sectors – agriculture, industry, and building. In the early days, the development of agriculture was the central Zionist theme, although it is doubtful whether employment in agriculture ever reached 20% of the Jewish labor force. Industrial development began on a serious scale only during World War ii, and received special attention after 1955. Because of the lack of previous agricultural and industrial training of most of the immigrants, and the limited growth of the goods-producing sectors, Israel always had a service-based economy.
As late as 1955, 46% of the Jewish labor force was employed in the goods-producing sectors (a proportion slightly higher than that in the United States, the most service-oriented economy in the world, and much lower than in Western Europe). Within the service sectors, the proportion of Jews employed in public and government services was 22%, by far the highest in the world. Whereas in most countries underemployment tended to be concentrated in agriculture, in Israel it tended to be concentrated in public and government services. The unemployment rate, traditionally high in Israel because of unrestricted immigration, reached a peak of about 10% in 1953, but dropped to 7% in 1955.
Between 1955 and 1965, while the Israel gross national product expanded at a real annual rate of 10%, the structure of employment in Israel underwent radical changes. The proportion in the goods-producing sectors actually advanced slightly, from 48.4 to 48.9% (this includes the Israel Arabs). Employment in agriculture, following world trends, declined over the decade, but relative gains in industrial and construction employment more than offset this. Small relative declines in commerce and private services were only partially offset by a relative expansion in public services. The slight rise of employment in goods-producing sectors was contrary to world trends: in Western Europe the proportion employed in the goods-producing sector fell to 50–55%. As Israel living standards neared European levels during this decade, the broad distribution of the labor force between economic sectors began to resemble that of Western Europe. By 1965 the distribution of the labor force by economic sectors had begun to approach normalcy, though some sharp differences were still evident. The proportion of the labor force in industry, despite the rapid absolute and relative rise, was still low compared to Western Europe, as was the proportion in commerce. On the other hand, comparatively large proportions were still engaged in construction and in public services.
The picture of total employment had also changed over the decade. From 1955 to 1960 unemployment fell steadily, from 45,500 to 34,000, or from 7.2 to 4.6% of the labor force. Thereafter, the number of unemployed tended to remain stable, though, because of increased employment, the percentage dropped. The unemployment rate fluctuated only between 3.3 and 3.7% from 1961 through 1965. This rate was considerably lower than that prevailing elsewhere. During the early 1960s, Israel enjoyed its first sustained period of full employment. The residual unemployment was essentially of a frictional character. Indeed, in 1964, a peak year, there were large numbers of unfilled jobs.
The proportion of the total population of working age in the labor force declined slightly over the 1955–1965 decade, but this decline was purely demographic. The number of people in the 14–17 age group and over 55 years of age expanded significantly over the period. This offset increased labor force participation by specific age groups, though differently for men and women. Between 1955 and 1965, labor force participation of male youths aged 14–17 grew: it grew substantially for those over 55 years of age. Thus, while in 1955 it could be argued that male labor force participation was low by western European or American standards, by 1965 it was quite normal.
The labor force participation rates of women also advanced rapidly during the same decade. Despite the unfavorable demographic development, the participation rate grew from 26.5% in 1955 to 30.3% in 1965. But, despite this increased rate, the overall level was generally below that in the United States or Western Europe. The 1965 employment rate for women up to the birth of their first child was comparable to that in other countries. Thereafter, particularly after the age of 35, the rate was much lower, i.e., fewer married women with children tended to return to the labor force as compared to other advanced countries. This is due to the extremely low labor force participation of Jewish women originating from Islamic countries. These women had many children, lived in traditional style, and had few labor market skills. Daughters of these immigrant women are, however, adapting more to western work and childbearing patterns, and the problem appears to be simply generational.
The economic and employment growth patterns were abruptly halted by the recession of 1966–67. During this period, employment declined, especially in industry and building, and unemployment soared briefly over the 10% mark. After the Six-Day War a very rapid recovery set in with a trend to return to full employment. There was, however, a further relative shift to services caused mainly by a decline in building employment and a further decline in agricultural employment.
With the approach of the 1970s, Israel's capacity for economic growth tends to be limited largely by manpower shortage. Immigration is still relatively small, and manpower reserves have been drained. The important tasks are to reduce frictional unemployment and to utilize underemployed manpower by increased training in needed skills.
[Herbert Allen Smith]
Developments in Employment and Labor, 1970–1980
In the period from 1970 to 1978, the Israeli civilian labor force grew, on the average, by 3% per annum, reaching 1,318,100 persons in 1980, and the demand for workers also increased steadily. Out of the total civilian labor force in 1980 approximately 1,254,000 were employed, while the remainder, 63,600, were unemployed.
The unemployment rate, i.e., the number of unemployed persons as a percentage of all persons in the labor force declined from 3.8% in 1970 to 3.6% in 1978, but increased to 4.8% in 1980. Of particular significance during the period was the increased participation of women in the labor force. Their percentage grew, on the average, by 5% annually, whereas the number of men rose by a mere 2%.
Employment of residents of the Administered Areas in Israel also rose significantly during this period, from approximately 21,000 in 1970 to close to 70,500 in 1980, an average of 16% per annum. The majority of these workers have found employment in Israel in construction, manufacturing and agriculture.
Data from the national Employment Service also reflect the rising demand for labor in Israel's economy. Through 1978 the number of job seekers (monthly average) declined during the period under review by 3% per annum, while the number of job openings (monthly average) declined by 2%. As a result, the number of jobs for which no workers were found had doubled.
The average real wages of workers rose by 22% during the period under review. The highest rise was in the economic branch of electricity and water – 74%, and the lowest in the building trade, only 7%.
The rise in industry was greater than that in public services, which increased by only 12% as compared with 29% in industry. From this it would appear that the standard of wages in the industrial sector was 10% higher than in the public service sector, which was a reversal of the trend of the previous decade.
Although the average real increase in wages in the financing and business services economic branch was 22%, a breakdown of the branches reveals that whereas in banking, insurance and property the increase was 32%, in other business services it was only 6%.
The situation changed again somewhat in 1979 as a result of significant increases in salary in the industrial sector and an even greater increase in the public sector, which also received the differences in pay for 1978 retroactively.
The demands of the workers for nominally significant pay increases were affected by the increased rate in the rise of prices at the end of 1978 for the late, partial compensation given through the cost-of-living raise and by the erosion of disposable income because of only partial adjustments in the income tax brackets.
By the end of the year the rapidly increasing rate of inflation had eroded the real gain in salary, despite the fact that the nominal salary continued to increase quickly. The constantly increasing consumer prices resulted in the real salary of employed workers increasing during the year by 3.7% over all the economy and close to only 1% in the industrial sector.
The period 1971–1979 can be divided into three main sub-periods which were influenced by three factors extraneous to labor relations: the Yom Kippur War and the rise in the cost of raw materials and in that of oil in the world.
The period January 1971–September 1973 was one of economic growth; October 1973–December 1974, the period of war and emergency, 1975–1979, a slowing down in economic activity.
The first period was characterized by a flourishing and developing economy. There was a demand for workers which could not be met and which led to pressure in the labor market, which was accompanied by an inflationary process. An attempt was made to restrain the rise of wages by collective wage through "package deals," i.e., agreements between the government, the Histadrut, and the employers on limited wage increases, the employers on their part undertaking not to raise prices. The function of the government was price control and an undertaking not to increase municipal taxes.
The "package deals" entered into in 1970 were still in force in 1971, but the rise in prices, with a concomitant increase in the medium of circulation at a time when wage increases were restricted by the package deals, brought about strong pressure in the form of strikes and labor disputes – especially in the public sector – to increase salaries. The strikes, called while the agreements were still in force, were confined to small groups who did not receive the authorization of the Histadrut. They amounted to 169 strikes, involving 88,265 workers with 178,612 days of work lost, and encompassed 58% in the public sector, 25.4% in the private and 9% in that of the Histadrut.
A similar deal was signed in 1972 for the years 1972–73, but the gap between the increase in prices and of goods, which became greater as a result of the devaluation of the currency in August 1971 and the growing inflation in the second half of 1972, had the effect of drawing out the negotiations and the abandonment of the framework of these agreements, with the result that the signing of many of the agreements did not take place until the second half of 1972, and in some cases 1973. The number of strikes and of workers involved was almost identical with that of 1971, but the number of work days lost increased to 235,058. Similarly, although there were only 96 strikes in 1973, they encompassed 122,345 workers, and 375,020 work days were lost.
In 1974 the state of emergency which continued after the Yom Kippur War and the fact that a considerable number of workers were still mobilized, was not conducive to strikes. During the war the labor agreements were extended for a period of three months, and in most branches they were further extended on the termination of this period, the parties involved agreeing to an increase in basic wages of il50–il80, while the minimum wage and the cost-of-living increment were increased.
There was a rapid return to the pre-war situation in the second half of 1974 which found its expression in the relative rise in the number of strikes. The majority of strikes were in the public sector such as El Al, the Dead Sea Works, and the ports. Signs of the third period, 1975–78, became evident. As the agreements previously entered into were due to lapse in 1976 – in January in the private sector and in April in the public – the number of strikes in 1975 (118) returned to that of the pre-war period, although the number of work days lost were fewer. In the second half of 1975 the reform in the income tax regulations, the main item of which – insofar as it affected workers – was that all income, including side benefits, was liable to taxation, had its effect upon the labor situation, causing strikes and labor disputes.
The year 1976 saw the signing of labor agreements. In the private sector, they were signed in February and included an increase of 6% for that year and an additional 3% for 1977, but in the industrial sector a larger increase was agreed upon. The agreements in the public sector, which were not signed until April, provided an increase of 2.5% for 1976 and a similar further increase for 1977. The gradual abolition of special increments was also agreed to, as a result of which strikes and sanctions on the part of those affected took place, causing a considerable loss of working days. In view of the realization that the increments granted did not keep pace with the continuous inflation, steps were taken particularly, but not solely, in the public sector to obtain higher wages than were provided for in the collective agreement, and were reflected in the larger number of strikes (50) in the third quarter of the year.
In the light of these many labor disputes in the public sector, negotiations were instituted between the Histadrut and the government for the establishment of an agreed arbitration body, which was set up in February 1977.
The results of the elections to the Ninth Knesset in 1977 had considerable influence on labor relations, and the price increases, which reached 30%–40%, gave rise to the feeling in the public sector that the increases in wages granted in the labor agreement of 1976 were not commensurate with them. The approaching elections afforded the workers in this sector an opportunity to apply pressure on the government to obtain increases. Forty percent of the strikes and 75% of the working days lost occurred in the first quarter of the year preceding the election. The steep rise in the number of working days lost was caused by the large labor groups involved, such as the Treasury officials, the Transport Ministry, the Bank Leumi, and the institutes of the representative workers' organizations.
In 1978, for the first time in three years, there was a marked increase in employment in the industrial sector without a corresponding slowing down in the employment in the public sector. The collective negotiations on labor agreements took place against a background of galloping inflation.
The still further increases which were anticipated during the year gave rise to the need for the working out of an agreed policy on wages between the employer, the government and the Histadrut, in order to render possible the conducting of negotiations in the industrial and public sectors, and the date for the coming into effect of the agreements was postponed to April.
In the industrial sector a collective agreement was signed on March 20, and on its basis individual agreements were entered into in various economic branches, and undertakings, but in a number of cases they were accompanied by labor disputes, particularly in the industrial undertakings connected with the public sector.
In the public sector the negotiations were protracted for a long time, during which prices rose and corresponding situations were established which arose from decisions arrived at through arbitration. The agreements in the public sector were not concluded until November, after which various trade unions joined in them, but as a result of the slow pace of the negotiations, agreements signed at the beginning of 1979 granted higher increments to some of the workers in the public sector and brought about added demands, from organizations which had already signed agreements, for the reopening of negotiations.
These protracted negotiations were accompanied by considerable unrest, particularly in the public sector and large unions. The steep increase in days of work lost was due to the strikes of the teachers' unions in which no less than 500,000 days were lost, but it should be pointed out that most of them were subsequently made up. Sixty percent of the strikes were without the approval of the Histadrut.
The year 1979 was also a restless year in labor relations, despite the fact that, with the introduction of the new economic policy towards the end of the year, there was a noticeable decline in the number of strikes.
In the course of the year there were 116 full strikes in which 529,362 working days were lost, representing an increase of 39% in the number of strikes compared with the previous year, but the number of work days lost was only half of that of the previous year.
There were also 98 partial strikes (i.e., sanctions of different types). The majority (52%) were in the public sector, most of them (52%) of which were for wages and benefits which included demands for new classification of scales.
In 1980 there was a sharp drop in the number of full strikes (84) and partial strikes (54); the number of work days lost was half that of 1979.
The breakdown of the strikes 1971–78 reveals a number of tendencies or characteristics of strikes in Israel:
1. Although the number of strikes remained more or less constant, the number of workers involved and working days lost rose steadily (with the exception of 1974). Even taking into consideration the increase in the number employed, there were larger groups participating in strikes (for example, 88,265 in 1971 and 250,420 in 1979, although for 1980 the number of strikers was 91,451).
2. The majority of strikes took place in the public sector, to which can be added those included under "others" which include doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers with a sharp drop in the other two, the smallest number being in the Histadrut sector.
3. The proportions of distribution of strikes among the various economic branches changed each year. Whereas in 1971, 44.6% of strikes were in the public services, in 1978 it went down to only 20%, while in transport and communications it rose from 14.3% to 36.5%. In industry the strikes were connected with the signing of collective agreements.
4. Some 50%–60% of the strikes were unauthorized. It also reveals a slight increase in the number of lockouts by employers.
The Settlement of Labor Disputes – Law of 1957
In 1972 this law was amended with the aim of preventing strikes – including slowdowns – during the period covered by agreements. The law defines as unprotected any strike in the public sector where a collective agreement applies, except for strikes not connected with wages or social conditions and which received the authorization of the Histadrut. The same applied to strikes even when the agreements had lapsed if they had not been authorized by the Histadrut. In these cases the workers were not protected and they could be charged with invoking monetary damage.
In 1977 another amendment was adopted which defined a partial, non-protected strike. In brief it may be stated that it provided for partial payment of wages for partial work, i.e., if the workers instituted sanctions, the employers were entitled to apply to the labor courts, and if they decided that the workers were indeed instituting slowdowns, they would be entitled only to partial wages. The amendment was an attempt to grant the employer in the public service a deterrent against such workers after prolonged use on their part of this weapon.
The Law of Collective Agreements – 1957
A number of amendments were enacted to this law also in 1976. One provided for the setting up of committees to supervise the implementation of extended provisions in general collective agreements given by the minister of labor and social affairs.
Despite the fact that, as a result of these instructions, non-organized workers were granted the privileges which had been achieved between the Histadrut and the employers, there was no guarantee that these workers would receive the privileges granted them by the extended provisions. The supervisory committee was set up in order to ensure that they should receive the amendment authorized them to make a list of all the undertakings subject to the law and ensure adherence to them. Each such committee was composed of representatives of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, representatives of the Histadrut and of the employers. A further amendment made it obligatory upon the employer to pay a fee for organizational technical work to the employers' organization, which is a party to the extended collective agreement.
Additional amendments made at the same time granted the right of inspecting collective agreements legally registered, and it was also laid down that an extension order relating to the cost of living allowance, price increase compensation or minimum wage could go into effect from a date up to three months prior to the date of publication.
The 1980s and After
With the rise of the Likud to power in 1977 and the acceleration of processes that would alter the economic profile of the country, great changes occurred in the labor sector as well – both institutionally and in the condition of the individual worker. The very rapid transformation of the economy from socialist to capitalist lines in the 1980s in the midst of runaway inflation left the two cornerstones of the socialist economy – the Histadrut and the kibbutz – literally reeling. The Histadrut would be forced to sell off its economic holdings to survive and be divested of its Kuppat Ḥolim health care system under the new State Health Insurance Law, as well of management of its pension fund, thus losing its standing as an economic giant and, in health care, one of its main attractions as a labor union. Membership consequently dropped from 1.5 million in the mid-1980s, 75% of the labor force, to around 700,000 (around 30%) in the early 2000s. Though the Histadrut continued to operate as an ordinary labor union, it was now perceived as being controlled by a few powerful company unions (Bezek, the Electric Corp.) and its strike activity was mainly confined to the public sector. The decline of the kibbutz was also symptomatic of the country's transformation. Caught up in the speculative fever of the 1980s and crushed by spiraling interest rates in the accompanying inflation, many found themselves on the brink of bankruptcy. At the same time, internal pressures weighed in to bring about far-reaching social and economic changes that in effect ended collective life. Among these changes were differential salaries, outside employment for members, privatization of services, and nonmember housing, making the kibbutzim resemble ordinary communities.
The demise of socialism and the special ethos that had characterized the country in its formative years under a Likud government that promoted free enterprise and private initiative, and ironically derived a good deal of its support from low-income voters, together with a broad range of additional factors that affected the labor sector – the failure of traditional industries, rising unemployment, the influx of foreign workers, a welfare system that undermined the work ethic, and then cutbacks in welfare spending that caused hundreds of thousands to slip below the poverty line, a persistent recession tied to the second intifada and global economic conditions – all combined to undercut the status of working men and women. Perhaps nothing was more symptomatic of Israel's new economic spirit than the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation passed by the Knesset in 1992 and interpreted by the classically
|Percentage distribution by economic branch|
|Year||Agriculture||Industry and mining||Construction||Utilities||Commerce||Transportation||Public services||Private services||Total employment|
liberal Barak Supreme Court as protecting the right of employers to fire workers, but not of workers to work.
The upshot of Israel's new economic reality is that the gap between rich and poor has been steadily growing. At the beginning of 2006 average income in the upper 10% bracket was 12 times higher than in the lower 10% bracket and accounted for 27.8% of national income. Half the country's wage earners, with incomes of up to a little over $2000 a month, accounted for less than 20% of national income.
In 2006 Israel had a labor force of around 2.5 million, representing about half its working age population, a percentage considerably lower that in the developed nations of the oecd. Unemployment was somewhat over 10%, with the rest of the nonworking population not part of the work force. Nonparticipation in the work force was particularly marked among those with little education, Arab women, ultra-Orthodox men, and residents of provincial areas.
The labor force was employed in the following sectors: public services (31.2%), manufacturing (20.2%), finance and business (13.1%), commerce (12.8%), construction (7.5%), personal and other services (6.4%), transport, storage and communications (6.2%), and agriculture, forestry and fishing (2.6%).
[Fred Skolnik (2nd ed.)]
See also *Israel, State of: Economic Affairs.
jewish labor organizations: W. Preuss, The Labour Movement in Israel (19653); F. Zweig, The Israeli Worker… (1959); N. Malkosh, Histadrut in Israel (19622); I. Sobel, in: W. Galenson (ed.), Labor in Developing Economies (1963), 187–250; M. Braslavsky, Tenu'at ha-Po'alim ha-Ereẓ-Yisre'elit, 4 vols. (1955–63), includes bibliography; P. Merḥav, Toledot Tenu'at ha-Po'alim be-Ereẓ Yisrael… (1967); G. Kressel, Ha-Histadrut, Madrikh Bibliografi (1970); Ha-Histadrut ha-Kelalit shel ha-Ovedim ha-Ivryyim be-Ereẓ Israel, Ḥukkot ha-Histadrut (1952); idem, Ha-Histadrut mi-Yom Kum ha-Medinah (1969– ), statistics; S. Kurland, Cooperative Palestine (1947); G. Muenzer, Labor Enterprise in Palestine (1947); Z. Even Shoshan, Toledot Tenu'at ha-Po'alim be-Ereẓ-Yisrael, 3 vols. (1955–66). labor relations. Y. Gothelf, Ba-Derekh 1965 (1965); A. Doron, Tenu'at ha-Avodah ha-Yisre'elit – Avar ve-Atid (1966/67); I. Ben-Aharon, Be-Fetaḥ Temurah (19682); Y. Yagol, Temurot be-Tenu'at ha-Po'alim ha-Ivrit (1958); A. Manor, Mahut ha-Histadrut (19572); Y. Sprinzak, Mesimot, Al Be'ayot ha-Histadrut (1968). See also section on Jewish Labor Organizations. employment: Israel, Ministry of Labor, Manpower Planning Authority, Annual Reports (Heb. and Eng., 1964– ); Israel, Central Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Abstract of Israel (Heb. and Eng., 1950– ); The lsrael Institute of Productivity, Productivity in Israel, (October 1979); Annual Reports of the Department of Labor Relations of the Ministry of Labor: Statistical Abstract of Israel, Annual Report.
"Land of Israel: Labor." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/land-israel-labor
"Land of Israel: Labor." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved February 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/land-israel-labor
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