Tel Aviv rocked by protests against Netanyahu’s judicial power-grab & attack on the right to strike

Israelis protest for 5th consecutive week against the plans by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s new government to overhaul the judicial system and attack the right to strike.

Tel Aviv was rocked by tens of thousands protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reforms at the weekend.

Mr Netanyahu’s far-right coalition is pushing legislation that would allow the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority vote, a move critics say would permanently politicise justice.

It also wants to give parliament control of appointing judges.

It forms part of a raft of authoritarian legislation by the new administration, which includes what unions say are unacceptable attacks on the right to strike.

Unions formed a major presence in the Tel Aviv demo, with banners such as Doctors Fighting for the Life of Democracy.

At universities across Israel yesterday, lecturers protested against the judicial laws and called marches “for the preservation of democracy.”

The attack on labour law is bound up with the attempt to transfer authority from courts to politicians, with a Bill from the Knesset’s constitution committee chairman Simcha

Rothman of the Religious Zionism party giving parliament the authority to suspend strikes, a right currently sitting with the Labour Court.

Mr Rothman claims to have been approached by workers complaining that they have been forced to take strike action against their wishes.

His Bill limits the conditions under which workers may legally strike, the ability of unions to collect fees from their members and aims at banning solidarity strikes.

It also further weakens unions’ protections under “unprotected strikes.” Where currently only the employer may sue for damages during unofficial strike action, it would allow members of the public to sue the union in these circumstances. Workers who participate in such strikes will lose their protection from unfair dismissal.

Israeli trade union confederation Histadrut said Mr Rothman’s Bill is a proposal to “dismantle organised labour in Israel … a dramatic declaration of war on the workers.”
Chairman Aaron Bar-David vowed that the whole union movement would unite to defeat the legislation.

However, the Communist Party of Israel criticised Histadrut, saying it had declined to take a firm stance against the whole of the judicial overhaul.

Mr Bar-David said he could not do so “because there are many workers with different opinions.”

This item first appeared in the Morning Star on February 4th.

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