Tel Aviv protest against cost of living, Saturday
Photo: Ben Kelmer

Legal expert: Facebook strike anarchistic

Recent protests clock into workplaces with thousands of employees joining Facebook groups for one-day strike. Lawyers caution of legal implications; however, some contend that 'this might be a legitimate quasi-political strike that has acknowledged precedents'

Thousands of Israelis were expected to participate Monday in a protest organized via Facebook and go on a one-day strike as part of the social protest sweeping across the country. It is not clear how many in fact took part in said protest but it is clear that this is not a run of the mill strike but something of a new species for Israel's legal system.


A strike is a legal term that entails several conditions: Collective labor relations, employer-employee relations, announcement by a representative labor organization, an announcement 15 days in advance and the acceptance of a deadline for talk and a subsequent decision at the Labor Court.


The Facebook protest upholds none of the above. It calls upon employees not show up for work which is legally acceptable under the right to protest and the freedom of expression; however, this is not a strike and employers have the right to penalize such absences with either wage deductions or dismissals or a pat on the shoulder in solidarity, among others.


An employee cannot procure affordable housing or free health services for his employees. An economic strike aims at securing economic rights. Some strikes, however, are illegitimate: political strikes, and strikes against economic policies at that, and strikes to realize rights. The legitimate manner in which to realize (as oppose to obtain) rights is through legal channels with a claim that can be enforced through a labor court ruling.


Quasi-political strike

There is no doubt that the current protest aims at obtaining rights, only that its leaders are not recognized by law as qualified representatives to set a a strike in motion.


Attorney Rami Landau from Meitar Liquornik Geva & Leshem Brandwein explained to Calcalist correspondent that "Facebook is not yet an official labor representative. A strike or a lockout on part of Facebook is legally void. An employee who fails to show up for work without and consent in advance from his employer is in grave violation (of the law) and may be penalized as per company policy – from wage penalties to dismissal".


Attorney Carmit Peled of S. Freidman offers a more tolerant viewpoint: "the right to strike is recognized as a constitutional fundamental right which should be balanced with the proprietary rights of employers and employee's right to protect themselves from disproportionate damages.


"In effect, I'm not sure it will get to court but if it does and employers will seek to fire employees, it just may be that the court will rule that the strike is a legitimate quasi-political strike with acknowledged precedents."


Withholding public services

Head of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel, Shlomo Buhbut came under fire as well, after organizing the Facebook strike as well as spearheading local authorities' sanctions against government offices.


"He has no jurisdiction, no legal framework. This is clearly illegitimate," claims attorney Nahum Feinberg, one of Israel's leading labor attorneys. "He's free to do so in the afternoon – after work hours. He can hire buses and drive workers to rallies. Under what right is he withholding services from the public? He might get hit with a class action."


Attorney Dafna Shmuelvich agrees that there is no legal framework – neither for a strike nor for a lockout. "There's a mix-up of terminology", she says. "The protest is social, for affordable housing. Can employers offer such housing?


"This is no labor dispute deriving from employee-employer relations," Shmuelvich told Calcalist reporter. "Histadrut Labor Federation head Ofer Eini, was cautious and refrained from referring to a strike but instead talked about the right to protest, about using whatever means we have at hand."


Feinberg differentiates between a legitimate and an illegitimate strike: "In this case this is not a legitimate economic strike but a political one – a strike against a sovereign which is an illegal strike. The ruling made some allowance and approved a protest strike, a solidarity strike for several hours for the purpose of a labor meeting."


Attorney Chaim Berenson told Calcalist that "a short political protest strike is legitimate. One must realize that labor relations acknowledge industrial action against the State as an employer – not as a sovereign. In this case, a short strike was announced but not bona fide. It was an ambush, it happened overnight. This is an anarchistic strike – the local authorities' lockdown included."


The union of local Authorities imparted to Calcalist that "local government is entitled to make independent decisions, according to the letter of the law and not at the will of other factors. The municipal employees showed up for work but didn't offer all of the services. This constitutes a disruption of service and was done according to the law.


"With that said, if anyone believes that this move was illegal they are welcome to respond accordingly. Heads of municipalities will carry on determinately and fearlessly for the benefit of the citizens and for the improvement of the quality of life in Israel."


Click here to read this report in Hebrew



פרסום ראשון: 08.02.11, 17:24
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