Monday, December 8, 2008

Universities ganging up to prevent Weizmann Institute workers organizing

In an unprecedented move, Tel Aviv University's administration demanded that a university legal clinic stop representing workers seeking to unionize at the Weizmann Institute. The clinic therefore decided to transfer the case to an outside lawyer, so as not to harm the workers' efforts.

The affair began when workers at the Davidson Institute, which is part of Weizmann, decided to join the Koach La'Ovdim union. The university refused to recognize the union, prompting demonstrations by the workers, at which some were beaten by university guards. One of the demonstrators suffered a broken knee.

Following this incident, the Davidson Institute's chairman, Prof. Haim Harari, wrote to Tel Aviv's rector, Prof. Dan Leviatan, to protest the legal clinic's involvement. Prof. Israel Bar-Joseph, Weizmann's vice president, said that this was a personal appeal by Harari; the university itself "didn't ask for anything and didn't write anything." But other sources involved in the affair said that Weizmann's president, Prof. Daniel Zajfman, also asked Tel Aviv to order the clinic to drop the case.

The clinic, which was established to provide hands-on experience for law students, published a notice on its Web site saying it had been "pressured" to stop representing the Weizmann workers. "In our view, this pressure constitutes inappropriate interference in academic freedom, infringement on lawyer-client relationships and infringement on the workers' right to organize," it said.

According to the clinic's deputy director, attorney Dori Spivak, the dean of Tel Aviv's law school, Prof. Hanoch Dagan, had rejected Harari's plea and authorized the clinic to continue representing the workers. However, the clinic decided that it was best to drop the case, lest the spat over its involvement distract attention from the main issue - namely, the workers' right to unionize.

A Tel Aviv University spokeswoman said that Leviatan considers it wrong for one university to intervene in another's affairs by siding with workers against the administration, and "as rector, it's his job to express his opinion on academic issues.

" According to Prof. Alon Harel of Hebrew University, "this is the first time in the history of the clinics in this country that a university administration has thwarted a clinic's decision to sue another body. This precedent is liable to undermine the autonomy the clinics enjoy."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Another letter from parliament MK Ofir Pines-Paz

(translated from Hebrew by Amit Eshbal)

Jerusalem, Heshvan 27th, 5769
November 25th, 2008

Prof. Daniel Zajfman
President of The Weizmann Institute of Science
P.O box 26
Rehovot 76100


In the matter of violence and unacceptable disregard towards workers union.

The workers of the Garden of Science Museum at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot declared a labor dispute, about two weeks ago, as a result of what they see as a blow on their payment and terms of engagement. I know that the institute examined the subject, and that there were attempts to refer to the workers' demands and to improve their terms of engagement.
Nevertheless, those actions are no substitute for formal negotiation between the institute's management and the workers' union that, to my understanding, has yet to take place in spite of the workers' demands.

I was informed that, last week, a few workers were attacked by hired security guards, while protesting. As a result of this attack, two workers were wounded, and one of them (Yonatan Weinreib) was even evacuated to a hospital and had to undergo a surgery. I was surprised to hear that the institute's management did not find it appropriate to apologize to him, or even check his condition.

The Weizmann Institute is one of the leading institutes in its field and one of the most magnificent institutes in Israel. It is sad to know that it fails in such a basic subject as acknowledging his workers' right to form a union and negotiating with them on a base of mutual respect. Instead, the institute chose to react in an unacceptable way of disregard, abuse and even violence towards the workers.

I ask you and the board of the Davidson Institute to acknowledge the organized workers, and to refer to their arguments with due deliberation. In addition to that - I demand you not to harm the workers' terms of engagement or wage. I am certain that, with the right and fair treatment, it would be possible to find a way to solve this issue.

Kind regards,

Mk Ophir Pines-Paz

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weizmann`s violence against workers on "Haaretz"

Living science
Ruti Sinai, Ha'aretz, 17\11\08
(translated from Hebrew by Haran ‎Sened)

An audience of scientists and donors, from Israel and abroad, gathered yesterday at the Weizmann Institute at Rehovot to celebrate the granting of an honorary degree to Prof. David Hartman.

The peace was disturbed by five workers of the Institute's science park, who asked to display signs and deliver letters concerning the Institute's refusal to allow them to found a workers' union. The security personnel responded by charging at the workers, dropping them to the floor and beating them. One of the demonstrators was sent to an hospital, where he discovered that his leg was broken.

According to Nadav Aharoni, who works at the science park for the last four years, about 35 people, more than half of the workers, have organized themselves as part of the workers' organization "Koah Laovdim" (Power for the Workers). Some of the workers' demands have been accepted, but the Institute's administration refuses to negotiate a collective agreement, and for the last several weeks the park is out of work while the workers stay at home. "Too bad the the Weizmann Institute does not understand that scientific advancement and moral values go together", says Aharoni.

"There is no intention to exploit the workers. The salary and working conditions are more than fair", says the Institute's Vice President, Prof. Israel Bar-Yosef. "I would really like to end this episode. We try to handle it as a father handles his sons. But I will not allow a small organization with a political agenda and a handful of angry workers to dictate the workers' mode of employment".

Workers and Social Activists beaten by Weizmann Institute security while protesting employment conditions in the Museum of Science

The Marker 18.11.2008 (Ido Solomon)

Workers and Social Activists beaten by Weizmann Institute security while protesting employment conditions in the Museum of Science

Five workers and social activists, who tried to protest against their employment reality in the Weizmann Inst. Garden of Science Museum, were beaten up by security officers sent by management.

Last Sunday [16.11] the workers arrived at Institute campus, ready with signs to be lifted during the honor student fellowship awards ceremony, attended by the Weizmann Inst. leaders as well as the heads of the Davidson Association running the museum. All this as part of their struggle against management for its refusal to recognize their union, and to sit and negotiate employment terms.

In response, security was sent to stop the workers, and beat them brutally. One activist, Joni Wajnryb , is now hospitalized at ‛Hadassah Ein-Karem` awaiting a surgery on his knee for two fractures caused by the incident. Immediately after the event workers and activists were arrested by the police, and detained for 3 hours.

The Weizmann Inst. says in reply: “two workers have broken into campus on Sunday together with political activists, in order to sabotage the event. The burglars, who had been crawling under the fences, were captured by security, which used minimal force to detain them. There is no truth to the claim that they were apprehended on their way to work, for they had been asked explicitly not to arrive at the Garden of Science. The political activists entered the Institute with the clear intention of sabotage.”

The workers, on the other hand, argue that they entered campus by more conventional means, and that they did not intend anything except raising their signs. Official labor dispute between Museum workers and the Davidson management has been declared already two months ago. Workers’ claims include cutting back staff, upping groups of visitors from 25 to 40, failure to reimburse for hours worked, lack of transparency in salary calculation, late pay etc..

In early July 27 out of 40 workers at the Museum united through “Power to the Workers”, in order to make management hear their claims. Among those unionized one finds those who only recently have rejoined civil life, students who are hired as tour guides, and workers at the Museum workshop.

Since the labor dispute was declared, management has met with the workers a number of times, and even made some suggestions on how to resolve it. Nevertheless, they remain adamant in refusal of the right of the workers to unionize, and suggested to sit with each worker dividedly.

The workers also claim that in the last three months management has become less benign, withholding shifts and trying to bring in un-unionized workers to replace them. At a number of occasions the workers held protest rallies outside the Museum gates, and even stopped work for an hour one time.

But when five of them tried to enter campus, they were detained by security.
“They must want physically to break the workers’ union”, says Nadav Aharoni, a guide. “We came to our place of work. Security shouted at us to stop, but we kept on none the less. They jumped at us, threw us to the floor. One security office stepped on me, and then sat on me, yelling all the time that he was not touching me at all. All we wanted to do was to protest in our workplace against the stealing of our livelihood. They prevent us from working, condition our return to work by giving up the union, and when we come in legitimate labor protest they beat us mercilessly.”

Institute management adds: “There is no truth in claims concerning the withholding of shifts. Davidson management has met with the workers and heard their claims. It held an inquiry, and found that some of these claims was indeed true and just. These wrongs are currently being righted. These facts have been made clear to the workers. The door of management is always open to the workers, but it is they who refuse to meet with unimportant procedural claims. The Institute wished to solve the problems of the guides fairly and reasonably. Yet it will not allow the routine of scientific research and other Institute activities to be broken.

TV news about weizmann agression


Letter from Parliament : Knesset Member. Haim (Jumas) Oron

19 of November, 2008
(translated from Hebrew by Yarden Hochman)

Vice president of Weizmann Institution of science,
Gad Kover -


The topic: The organization of the workers of the Science garden in the Weizmann Institution

I address you on this issue following an appeal from workers in the Science garden in the Weizmann Institution.

From this appeal it is understood that the workers decided to realize their right to organize in order to better their employment conditions. According to what the workers of the science garden say, those who deal with instructing tours, administration work and cleaning - are employed in discriminating personal contracts, do not gain the collective contract valid to most workers of the institution and are exposed to a hurting employment frame such as delayed payment, partial payment and more. To the best of my knowledge, this organizing is done by a workers union called "Power to the workers", whose goal is to initiate organizations of workers across the Country.

The workers claim that the Weizmann institution management refuses to acknowledge their organizing and to conduct negotiations with it, conspires against the organized workers, denies them from working until they give up their struggle, terminated the tours to the museum and also denies some of them from entering the institution's grounds.
Following this, the workers commenced protesting actions including weekly demonstrations in the university's entrance.

Also arises from the appeal that in the 16th of November, 2008, security guards attacked five workers from the scientific garden and social activists that wanted to protest the management's attitude towards them in front of the board of trustees which assembled there, this happened before they managed to get to the science garden. One protester was beaten so badly that his knee was broken and he required surgery. The police was summoned to the place and hindered the protesters without attending the wounded.

I turn to you in plea to check why the Weizmann Institution management uses such difficult methods, which include the use of violence from the security guards and means of hurting the subsistence, against the workers organization which asks to fulfill it's rights by law.
Also, I will ask to check the reasons for which the institution's management refuses to acknowledge the organization that represents the workers of the Science garden, which is composed of university students and youths who try, through the way of organizing, to improve their employment conditions.

I will be pleased if you inspect this subject as soon as possible and update me.

With best regards,
M.K. Haim (Jumas) Oron