Israeli lab workers go on strike amid pandemic, effect on corona testing may impact travelers

Tens of thousands of health tests won’t be carried out.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Two thousand lab technicians went on strike in hospitals, HMOs and labs across the country on Sunday. The strike is open-ended with no date set for its completion.

Tens of thousands of health tests won’t be carried out. Emergency room tests will continue as will corona testing. But only those testing positive will receive a report.

This could potentially affect travelers as according to the country’s health guidelines, people going abroad must test negative 24 hours prior to their flight. If negative tests aren’t reported, they will have no way of proving it.

The lab workers are protesting their working conditions. They warned two weeks ago that if the Finance Ministry doesn’t find a solution, they would strike. They say they have been fighting to improve their situation for five years.

“Unfortunately, despite the corona plague, the Israeli government is disrespecting us and ignoring us, despite the heavy responsibility on our shoulders and even the fact that we risk our lives every day at work,” said Esther Admon, chairwoman of the Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists, and Laboratory Workers.

“Our working conditions and wages are among the poorest in the State of Israel. We are ashamed,” she said.

Dr. Raul Kolodner, Emek Medical Center’s director of laboratory services, said, “Unfortunately, we have reached the point of declaring an open-ended strike. I would like to ask our partners to show empathy for the lab workers who are fighting for their basic rights, who have been rejected for years. We have no intention of harming patients, and we will do everything possible to avoid putting lives in danger, heaven forbid.”

Lab workers in Israel were demanding a new pay scaled starting at $14.87 per hour v. the current $9.22 an hour, Israel Hayom reports. It notes that private labs in Israel pay four times the current rate.

Barzilai Hospital director Prof. Yaniv Scherer expressed sympathy for the lab technicians, Ynet reports.

“Laboratory work is critical to us, both in regular days and certainly in days of coronavirus. The laboratories are an integral part of the healthcare system, but wage conditions are not good and it is difficult to attract young people to such work,” he said.