Lawmakers look to shut till on tip-based pay for waiters
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Lawmakers look to shut till on tip-based pay for waiters

MK Dov Khenin says his legislation will prevent exploitation of service industry employees by formalizing compensation structures

Illustrative image of a waiter bringing out food at a restaurant on December 5, 2010. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative image of a waiter bringing out food at a restaurant on December 5, 2010. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Government ministers will vote Sunday on whether to support a bill that would prohibit restaurants in Israel from counting tips for waiters toward their salaries and force them to pay their staff minimum wage instead.

According to Joint (Arab) List MK Dov Khenin, who submitted the bill in 2013, the legislation will prevent the exploitation of waitstaff in the service industry by formalizing waiters’ compensation.

Khenin’s bill enjoys the support of 63 of coalition and opposition lawmakers, the Ynet news site reported Sunday. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will decide whether to give the measure official coalition support.

According to the Waiters Association, tens of thousands of Israelis working in the food and beverage industry are unprotected by basic labor laws.

“Without a base salary or minimum wage, we have no rights,” said the group’s founder, Alon Green, in a Saturday Facebook post praising Khenin’s proposal.

In addition to ensuring a minimum hourly wage, the legislation will require restaurateurs to pay staff members who are scheduled for standby shifts, and will prohibit managers from delaying shift start times.

“Employment without orderly pay structure often leads to the exploitation of waiters,” Khenin said ahead of the Knesset committee decision, according to the report. “Since informal work agreements are not protected under the law, it creates a loophole that allows waiters’ work conditions to be degraded.”

File: Joint Arab List MK Dov Khenin in the Knesset. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
File: Joint Arab List MK Dov Khenin in the Knesset. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Khenin estimates waiters in Israel lose some NIS 7,000 (nearly $2,000) a year in social benefits under the current restaurant system.

“A tip is not a salary; it’s a service charge the customer chooses to pay at the conclusion of service. And, according to Israeli law, a wage is legally defined as being at least minimum wage — funds to be paid from the employers’ payroll for each hour worked,” Khenin said.

Green said most waiters in Israel forgo compensation or standby pay and are not reimbursed for travel expenses.

“All other labor rights and laws that ensure employees receive overtime or Sabbath pay, holidays, sick leave and pension programs are based on minimum wage laws,” he wrote. “Even if waiters earn NIS 5,000 a month for a period of two years, they could be fired and not be eligible for a single shekel of compensation.”

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