SHATIL's targeted campaign to combat gender inequalities in the public sector took a significant step forward as a top Ministry of Finance official declared support, and more than 200 members of Knesset, academics, social change activists and other concerned citizens gathered to raise and debate the issues last week. The conference "Privatized and Unionizing: Women's Employment in an Era of Privatization," held under the aegis of SHATIL's Equality and Dignity in the Workplace Initiative, also raised the issue of the disproportionate and adverse effects of outsourcing on women – especially in the most underserved communities.
In anticipation of the conference, SHATIL published an interview on its Hebrew website with Ilan Levin, the Ministry of Finance official responsible for public salaries. The interview led to articles in the prestigious business magazine The Marker and the popular NRG news website in which Levin called for a "revolution" – including affirmative action -- to bridge the salary gaps between men and women in the public sector, saying this was imperative to save the middle class.
The full-day event raised awareness about pressing obstacles facing women in the workforce, as well as about the remarkable work of social change organizations, including many NIF grantees, collaborating with SHATIL in advancing a more just and inclusive labor market. Among these organizations are the Israel Women's Network (IWN), Itach-Maaki, Women against Violence, Tmura and the Mahut Center.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Employment Binyamin Ben Eliezer and MK Orit Zuaretz, stressed the important work of civil society in the field, telling the activists that "progress is evident, and much of it is thanks to your work."
"Equality for women in the workplace will only be achieved with your continued and intensifying pressure on public officials,” Zuaretz continued, “and that is why this conference is so meaningful."
Moving testimony was heard from Bella Irmayev, a maintenance worker at Ben Gurion University, who is now a part of a remarkable unionizing effort following attempts to terminate her employment after 17 years. She joined Orna Amos, a lecturer of social work who played a leading role in this process, in detailing the process and lessons on how women and weakened employees can effectively join forces to safeguard women workers' rights.
The event closed with a panel discussion of leading journalists who provided valuable insights into how social change organizations can leverage media coverage and lead effective public campaign for worker's rights.