Saturday, October 18, 2008

Israeli scam exposed

Hostage-taking in Caribbean result of illegal funds charged by Israeli employers

Taken from YNet news, Israel, 18.10.08
By Hanna Zohar

Three hundred Chinese workers decided to break the law and take the Israeli representatives of a construction company hostage until they get their money back. These workers paid a total of $4.5 million ($15,000 each) even before they started working – the money was divided among the various Chinese and Israeli intermediaries. We can assume that the construction company also got its share – as we know, there are no suckers around here.

The right to work is a basic universal right. Therefore, international conventions and laws in most countries forbid employers from demanding fees from employees in exchange for giving them work. Yet when it comes to those 300 Chinese workers, as well as the millions of workers who travel from eastern countries to the West, the conventions and laws do not offer much help.

It’s a fact. They pay thousands of dollars only because they hope for a high salary that will cover the debts they accumulated and enable them to save up some money and raise their standard of living upon their return to their homeland.

A Chinese construction worker employed by Israeli construction companies pays more than $20,000 even before coming here. Construction corporations are in fact manpower companies that got a license to bring laborers to Israel and arrange construction jobs for them. Before they were set up, in 2006, the workers paid sums ranging from $6,000 to $10,000.

By law, these corporations are not allowed to charge workers more than $1,000 for hiring them. The corporations pay the State tens of thousands of shekels for their license, and in addition are asked to provide significant financial guarantees in case the workers do not get paid. These high sums of money paid by the corporations have been passed on to the workers, which is why they need to pay much more today.

No such corporation has been sued to this day for charging illegal sums from workers. Moreover, no corporation was asked to pay the guarantees for worker salaries, even though hundreds of workers have complained that they have not been paid. What we have here is not only a case of the government turning a blind eye – knowingly and deliberately in my view – to the charging of illegal funds, but also criminal cooperation with the corporations in avoiding to use the guarantees to pay workers.

Israeli workers also charged illegally
In June 2007, a plan for bringing laborers from Thailand through a UN-affiliated group was supposed to get underway, with the purpose of preventing the high payments handed over by workers to intermediaries (Thai workers pay between $9,000 to $12,000.) The government decision to launch the plan was taken after a petition to the High Court of Justice filed by Attorney Yuval Livnat from the Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline) organization.

However, agricultural groups cried out, as many of them share in the illegal funds, and when the farmers’ lobby raises its voice, no convention or law can stand in its way. The government decision was frozen on the basis of various pretexts.

Meanwhile, Israeli workers are also being charged for the right to work, despite the universal ban. This is done in a hidden and sophisticated manner, under the auspices and with the cooperation of the Israeli government.

The 200 Chinese workers in the Caribbean exposed the ongoing scam of greedy companies and a corrupt government. Had it not been for the current financial crisis, the workers would reconcile themselves to the fees they have already paid and continue to work.

In Chinese, crisis also means opportunity. Perhaps this is our opportunity to understand something and change it.

Hanna Zohar directs the Kav LaOved (Workers’ Hotline) non-profit organization

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