Demanding the Cancellation of New Criteria Formulated by the Israel Railway Company which Require the Performance of Military Service for the Employment of Railway Workers

Labor Lawsuit 4962/09 Abdullah Tayeh v. The Israel Railway Company

Today, 30 April 2009, Adalah and Sawt el-Amel ("The Laborers' Voice) submitted a lawsuit to the Regional Labor Court in Tel Aviv on behalf of two Arab workers fired by the Israel Railway Company. In the lawsuit, the organizations argued that the Israel Railway Company may not use the criterion of military service for the hiring or dismissal of workers from the workplace in general. Adalah warned that if this decision is not cancelled, the 130 Palestinian Arab workers currently employed by the railway stand to lose their jobs.

Adalah and Sawt el-Amel are representing Mr. Abdullah Tayeh, from Qalansawah, who has worked for the railway since September 2008, and Mr. Abdullah Nashef from Taybeh, who has worked for the railway since May 2008. When they started to work for the railway, as inspectors on railway crossings, the only condition of employment was knowledge of the Hebrew language. They took a reading comprehension test in Hebrew and both successfully passed. The company then sent them to a short course in which they learned to use communication tools and other instruments used by guards in the railway. Following the course, they were given two examinations, theoretical and practical, and they successfully passed.

In their affidavits, the two workers stressed that their work did not need military experience. Their work requires the reporting of accidents happening on the railway or in its vicinity, such as people walking on the tracks, drivers not yielding to the traffic lights or train crossings or other technical malfunctions.

In the lawsuit, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher argued that the imposition of military service as a criterion for working in the railway company effectively closed the door on the employment of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, as they do not perform military service. This job requirement, in this case, is contrary to the Equal Opportunities in Employment Law – 1988 which provides for the granting of equal access to employment and prohibits discrimination against workers on the basis of nationality. This provision violates the constitutional right of the freedom to work and choice of profession. The lawsuit also requested that the court compel the railway company not to take any steps that would reduce the hours or work shifts of the laid-off workers who are still working in accordance with the injunction issued by the Labor Court on an earlier date.

Adalah stressed that the use of military service as a condition for employment contradicts previous court decisions, in particular the Haifa District Court's judgment on a petition submitted by Adalah against the University of Haifa's policy to give housing preferences to students who have completed military service. In that case, the court ruled that the use of this criterion leads to discrimination against Arab students as they are exempt from serving in the Israeli military. (See Lawsuit 217/05, Haneen Na’amneh, et. al. v. Haifa University (Haifa District Court, decision delivered 17 August 2006).

Citation:  Labor lawsuit 4962/09, Abdullah Tayeh v. the Israel Railway Company (pending)

The Lawsuit (in Hebrew)