No ‘export of workers’ to Israel, say trade unions in India
All major trade unions have called on the govt to scrap the agreement with Israel & appealed to workers to boycott Israeli products and to refuse to handle Israeli cargo
Construction workers from India should not be used to replace Palestinian workers in Israel, said major Indian trade unions in a joint statement issued on Thursday, 9 November. The signed statement was released on behalf of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) , All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and even BJP-affiliated Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) among others.
The statement takes note of Israel seeking to replace approximately 1.3 lakh Palestinian workers with workers from India.
Stating that Indian trade unions must rise in solidarity with Palestine and reject the "disastrous" idea, the central trade unions have called upon the Indian government to scrap the agreement signed in May 2023, during Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen's visit, to send 42,000 workers to Israel.
The text of the entire release is shared below; but there are some salient points worth highlighting:
Following the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas, Israel had scrapped the work permits of all Palestinian workers.
Reports say that the month-long war has taken a heavy toll on Israel’s economy, with people from all sectors, especially reservists with military experience, being called upon to join the 'defence' effort. The construction sector is among the hardest hit, suggest reports from Israel.
While the appeal by central trade unions, whose authority has weakened over the years, is unlikely to deter Indians within the country or working in West Asia to look out for a better deal, the Indian government has officially maintained silence on the issue.
Political parties too have not weighed in, though in their individual capacity some opposition leaders like the AITC Rajya Sabha MP Saket Gokhale have mocked the Indian government for allowing 'body shopping'.
Israel, posted Gokhale, wants India to send labourers because India is still seen as a "source of cheap labour" with minimum rights. Indian workers replacing Palestinians would be given absolutely the worst jobs, which Palestinians were until now forced to do, he added.
“We are waiting for the decision of the Indian government. We hope to engage 50,000 to 1 lakh workers to run the (construction) sector and bring it back to normal,” Haim Feiglin, vice-president of the Israeli Builders Association, was quoted as telling the Voice of America.
The Israeli construction industry also employs Chinese and Moroccan workers, but is feeling the absence of the large Palestinian workforce. Israel has therefore also approached China and Moldova for workers, but in the wake of Beijing’s hard line on the Israel–Palestine conflict, it is doubtful whether more Chinese workers would come to Israel.
The agreement with India came well prior to the current crisis, of course. The Israeli interministerial delegation had visited India in March and toured several of our training centres. Apparently, the interest in our workforce comes not only because of skill and economy but the 'right temperament'.
“India can provide a significant number of working hands. English-speaking, excellent-tempered Indian workers have been working exceptionally well in Dubai in recent years,” an Israeli builder has been quoted as saying.