SodaStream: Human Rights and Workplace Violations

SodaStream – Human Rights and Workplace Violations:

In general, it is Palestinian labourers who fill low-ranking positions with little prospect for advancement in West Bank companies. Many companies operate there illegally and are more than willing to exploit the desperate and vulnerable labourers available.

Palestinian labourers who want to enter the West Bank for work are also required to get an independent permit from the Israeli Defence Force along with their regular West Bank Identity Card.

Furthermore, Palestinian labourers are treated as occupied subjects, not citizens, so they depend on employers for work permits which can be denied for “security” reasons.

SodaStream benefits from tax incentives and lax regulatory enforcement, as well as additional government supports. In fact, it was last October 2011, when SodaStream promised to move its factory out of the West Bank, but it has yet to do so.

In terms of specific worker welfare issues, in April 2010 Kav LaOved, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of labourers in the Israeli economy, reported that 140 Palestinian labourers were fired from the SodaStream factory and not paid their previous month’s wages.

When the labourers went to the factory to request their pay, SodaStream had them removed and banned from the entire industrial park. Kav LaOved did eventually succeed in getting back pay for them and the labourers were rehired.

Kav LaOved also reported that in 2008, Palestinian labourers complained of pay far below the minimum wage and of working 14 hour days in the Mishor Adumin factory. At that time they organized a protest at the SodaStream factory by writing letters and by conducting meetings with management.

In the end, 17 labourers were fired. Although Kav LaOved managed to get them rehired, the organization noted that they remain at the bottom of the hierarchy in the factory and fear dismissal.

The labourers who initiated the strike action were not hired back by SodaStream.

While Israel’s highest court ruled in 2008 that Israeli businesses in the West Bank are required to pay the Israeli minimum wage to Palestinian labourers, this is often not the case.

Kav LaOved has found that labourers in illegal settlements like Mishor Adumin are actually paid less than 1/2 the minimum wage [about $24 Canadian per 12 hour work day], are subject to extreme security checks and have to fend for themselves if injured on the job.

Salwa Elinat, coordinator for Kav LaOved also described the working conditions in the SodaStream factory as one of the worst, with labourers being fired if they complain about such conditions.

Since 2010, Kav LaOved has been unable to get any information about the working environment at the Mishor Adumin SodaStream facility. The factory actually has a ban on media and security cameras monitor anyone approaching the gate outside.

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