Social workers demonstrate across the country, threaten strike next week

Union says members will not supply any services next Monday in protest of workload, low wages and constant danger; accuses Finance Ministry of indifference

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Social workers block the Azrieli Junction in Tel Aviv in protest of their work conditions, July 2, 2020. (Union of Social Workers)
Social workers block the Azrieli Junction in Tel Aviv in protest of their work conditions, July 2, 2020. (Union of Social Workers)

Hundreds of social workers demonstrated at dozens of junctions around the country Thursday in protest of what they say is an unreasonable workload, with poor wages and the constant danger of violence.

During the latest in a series of recent protest rallies, the social workers reiterated their threat from earlier in the week to call a full strike next Monday.

Demonstrations were held in various cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

In Tel Aviv dozens of social workers blocked the key Azrieli Junction in the city for about an hour. There were no reports of arrests at any of the demonstrations.

Efrat, a social worker from Tel Aviv who was identified only by her first name, told the Ynet news site that the protests were not just for the social workers, but also for the sake of those who require their services.

“We came here to fight for the country’s social services,” she said. “It is unacceptable that for years budgets are dried up, and we are paid less than minimum wage.

“We are here for every citizen who at any time in their lives needs a social worker who is available and attentive and can attend to them in a manner that they deserve,” Efrat said.

Earlier this week, Israel Union of Social Workers’ chairperson Inbal Hermoni said in a statement that the country needs another 1,000 social workers and accused the Finance Ministry of refusing to even consider any proposals put forward for improving the situation.

“We are surrounded by violence and cruelty and there is no one to protect us,” Hermoni said in the statement. “We need to make ends meet with disgraceful wages and unreasonable workloads.”

Screen capture from video of Inbal Hermoni, chair of the Union of Social Workers. (YouTube)

Hermoni claimed there are 1,000 positions available for social workers but that no one wants those jobs because of “the workload involved, the violence and the low wages.”

“An entire system was neglected, withered and abandoned,” she said.

She warned that the coming strike would be the biggest ever by social workers.

During the open-ended labor strike there will be no investigations of children, no protection orders issued for children and youths in danger, no meetings of abortion committees, no respondents available to deal with inquiries from the elderly, no tending to domestic violence incidents, no allocation of minors to care homes, and no assessments of convicts or those under arrest.

Hermoni met this week with Finance Ministry officials, the Walla news site reported. She claimed the Finance Ministry refused to even consider various proposals made by the social workers union and ministry officials made no suggestions of their own.

Last week the social workers held a protest march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to raise awareness of their situation.

Ynet reported that last year the union conducted an assessment and found that 83 percent of social workers experienced violence at work. Thirty percent suffered physical violence and 30% suffered threats to their lives or to the lives of their children.

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