A Job to Win

Video 48's second documentary

Director and photographer: Shiri Wilk

Producer and researcher: Nir Nader

Script: Jonathan Ben Efrat, Nir Nader and Shiri Wilk

Editor: Jonathan Ben Efrat

Music: Yoel Ben Simhon

Political crisis and globalization have taken the jobs of 35,000 Arab construction workers. They are now returning to the building sites – this time organized!

This 55-minute documentary tells the story of construction workers in Israel who lost their jobs in the nineties. It records the struggle they are waging to gain them back, with the help of the Workers Advice Center (WAC).

Since 1995, 35,000 Israeli-Arab construction workers have lost their jobs. They are victims of two processes. The first is political: starting in 1992, the Rabin government slapped closure on the Occupied Territories. Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza could not get to work. For them and their families, the result has been catastrophic. For Israel, the result was a dearth of construction workers. Then began the second process: the government issued permits, allowing contractors to import foreign labor.

At first the foreign workers replaced the shut-out Palestinians. With the eating, however, came appetite. The foreigners paid thousands of dollars in advance, under the table, for the privilege of working here. They were cheap, unorganized and easy to exploit. Israeli Arabs, who till then had made up the main labor force in construction, could not compete. The contractors dumped them, importing even more from Rumania, Poland, China and elsewhere. In a few years, the new work force had completely replaced the local one.

Today, in a chaotic labor market, Video '48 reveals the forces at play in the construction industry. The camera follows the Minister of Labor, the President of the Contractors' Association, the manager of the Employment Service, managers at construction sites, and especially the jobless workers.

Another force is that of the Workers Advice Center (WAC – or Ma'an in Arabic). The camera follows WAC's first steps in a campaign called "A Job to Win." At the time of the filming, WAC had managed, against all odds, to return 400 Arab construction workers to their jobs. The number is now 500, and another 400 are organized and waiting.