Welfare agencies are set to close Sunday. Social workers protesting their employment terms and claiming that enough is enough will launch a strike as price hikes abound and the economic burden increases. But in the Arab sector there is an additional concern – fears of protests over racial discrimination.
"The government needs to wake up before it's too late and the Arab population organizes protests against the government," the manager of the seniors' department in the Kafr Kana council and Social Workers' Association Committee Member Naail Beto stated. "If there is no response to the demands of the Arab population, we will see thousands of people in the streets protesting against the Israeli government, similar to protests in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
Beto warned that the social workers' strike would only exacerbate the problem. "These distressed families won't be receiving any services and it will make them consider mutinous behavior and protests," he explained, "We will only be handling emergency cases through the exceptions committee so it is best if solutions are discussed before a blowup occurs.
In Arara in Wadi Ara there are 17,000 residents in 2,800 households. More than 1,000 of them are cared for by the welfare department. "By the end of 2010 we had 890 cases," the welfare department manager for local council told Ynet. Since then, with the recent hikes in prices, the number has gone up to 1,115."
Social workers protesting (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The head of the Bu'eine Nujeidat local council, Salah Suleiman, warned of a "large intifada that would break out in the Arab sector due to the disregard shown to development in the sector and the catastrophic economic and social situation. Regrettably, we have reached a point where men can't marry because they lack a piece of land to build homes on."
Suleiman added that it is quite possible that the riots in the region would reach Israel. "In our village half of the families are on welfare. I'm extremely concerned that the social workers' strike will promote additional trouble among these families.
"This is why I'm appealing to the Finance Ministry to make every effort to increase welfare officials' salaries, because they are major organizations and must be able to offer social services in the best most professional way out of good will."
In response the Finance Ministry stated: "The Finance Ministry is making every effort to prevent the planned strike and its repercussions on members of the public in need of social services.
"In a meeting today, solutions were presented to the social workers both on the issue of association employees and on the issue of proposed salary increase distribution so that it would benefit lower salary recipients. During the day both sides will examine the possibility of setting up an additional meeting tomorrow. "
Suli Gufin, Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry administrative coordinator stated in response that "in the north there are around 67 social services departments for the Arab sector. The numbers of people receiving welfare in each authority varies; the average is 20% (a number similar to the national average).
"If there is a strike, they won't receive care, excluding those with approval from the exceptions committee. The ministry supports the social workers' struggle, thinks that their salary should be increased as they are carrying out their work with true devotion."