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Israel – National Labour Court rules on Freedom of Association

04 January 2013

The National Labour Court decided on 2 January 2013  that the employer has no right to intervene in or express their opinion on initial organizing of employees. The Court thus accepted the position of the Histadrut (trade union organisation), which the Attorney General also supported.

In its ruling, the National Labour Court noted the implementation of the right of association in different countries around the world.

The Histadrut filed the lawsuit in the wake of a dispute with Pelephone, an Israeli-based telecommunications company, founded in 1986 as a joint venture between Motorola andTadiran, today owned by Bezeq.

The Court ruled that:

  • The company will not track employees that organized, or employees who have chosen not to organize, through managing lists, or otherwise;
  • The company will refrain from presenting its position regarding the organizing, at explanatory conferences for employees arranged by the Histadrut on company grounds, in private or group meetings with employees, by electronic correspondence, or otherwise.
  • The company will refrain from presenting to employees the disadvantages that it believes exist in joining an employees' organization and implications of the organizing on the economic or other activity of the company, including directing position papers to employees and promoting its opinions about the organizing.
  • The company will not track employees exercising their right to organize, including managing lists regarding the names of employees who signed the membership forms to the employees' organization.
  • The company's remarks about the extent of the damage that is liable to be caused as a result of the organising and harm to its ability to compete with competitors, including the contents of the CEO's letter, even if  true, constitute expressing an invalid and forbidden position.

The National Labour Court instructed that "Pelephone will refrain from initiating personal meetings with employees, with groups of employees, regarding exercising the right of association; and that the company will not use the means of communication at its disposal and its access to employees, in spreading messages against the organizing, through text messages to cellular phones or distributing letters to employees through e-mail".

Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini said in response to the court ruling: "This is an historic day for the freedom of association of the workers in Israel. I am certain that this ruling will lead to the organizing of many workers in all sectors as they decide about their future without any pressure of intervention of the employer."

Pelephone lawyer Asher Heled quoted by Haaretz said in response: "At a time when the Supreme Court is permitting political expression that even prompts revulsion, this [National Labor Court] decision is made, ruling that the opinion of the employer cannot be heard." Heled said he expected employer organizations to appeal the National Labor Court ruling to the Supreme Court.

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