Preventing the Labor Ministry from Closing Kufr Kana Employment Office.

HCJ 8249/04, Ziad Matar et. al. vs. Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

Petition and motion for injunction filed in 9/04 by Adalah and the Laborer’s Voice (Sawt el-Amel), on behalf eight unemployed individuals from Kufr Kana and neighboring villages, against the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor (MITL). The petitioners demanded that the MITL be prevented from shutting down the unemployment office in Kufr Kana, which serves the approximately 71,000 Arab citizens of Israel and 4,000 job seekers living in nine towns and villages in the north, and merging it with the Nazareth office. On the same day, the Court issued an injunction prohibiting the MITL from closing the Kufr Kana unemployment office.

All of the nine towns suffer from poor socio-economic conditions and, according to the socio-economic criteria of the Central Bureau of Statistics, are ranked within the three lowest bands of a total of ten bands. The National Employment Service recognizes these towns as centers of high unemployment, as the unemployment rates in them exceed 10% of the total labor force: the rate of unemployment in the nine towns in fact ranges from 15% to 30%. Further, the unemployment office in Nazareth, which serves the 100,000 residents of Nazareth, Illut, Kufr Manda, and Yaffa, is already over-crowded and under-staffed, with the number of job seekers in these four towns amounting to approximately 6,200 individuals. These towns are also ranked in the three lowest socio-economic bands, and head the Labor Office's list of centers of high unemployment. Closing the Kufr Kana employment office, would result in the number job seekers served by the Nazareth office rising dramatically to over 10,000 people, severely compromising the service provided.

As part of its reform plan in 2004, the MITL decided to close ten unemployment offices throughout the country, including the Kufr Kana office, both in Arab and Jewish towns, and to transfer job seekers to neighboring offices. The rationale given by the MITL for this decision was cutting costs and increasing efficiency. Adalah argued that, unlike the unemployment office in Kufr Kana, the other offices slated for closure by the MITL serve small towns, with low unemployment rates relative to the unemployment rate in the towns served by the Kufr Kana office. Moreover, the statistics for Jewish towns in the same geographical area, and in which unemployment offices will remain open, reveal that the MITL's decision is not based on transparent, equitable criteria, and fails to fulfill the goals of the ministry's reform plan. Further, the MITL did not decide to close unemployment offices in Jewish towns with high rates of unemployment serving a smaller number of people than the Kufr Kana office.

Adalah contended that the decision violates the rights of the job seekers to dignity, since those who will be reassigned to the Nazareth office will be forced to pay for weekly public transportation, incurring an additional economic burden. The petition emphasized that the decision discriminates against job seekers on the basis of their national belonging and breaches their basic right to equality, as well as their constitutional right to dignity and their right to social security. In addition, the petition stated that MITL’s decision is unreasonable, disproportionate and must therefore be nullified. The state requested and received postponements on the submission of their response to the petition.

Result: In 5/05, the AG informed the Supreme Court that the MITL had decided to cancel its previous instruction to close the unemployment office in Kufr Kana. The Court accepted the MITL's decision in the same month.

H.C. 8249/04, Ziad Matar et. al. vs. Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor (Petition dismissed 25/05/05).