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Israel: Farmer Arrested for "Enslaving" Thai Workers

On June 3, 2010

The Israeli police arrested this Tuesday a farmer from southern Israel who is suspected of underpaying 12 Thai workers he employed, and forcing them to work without days off.

The workers contacted Kav LaOved, an Israeli migrant rights NGO and reported that their employer is paying them below the minimum wage, and always two months behind. The employer forced the men to work seven days per week, and even deducted 100 NIS ($25) from the salary of those who didn't come to work on Saturday (the Sabbath). The employer also did not give the workers days off and sick days, which he is obligated to do. The workers who lived in a temporary and inadequately-equipped facility near their employer's house were forced to work for 400 hours per month on average, which is significantly higher than what is allowed under the law.

Following the complaint to the police by the NGO, the farmer was arrested and the workers were transferred to a shelter for victims in human trafficking and employment in slavery-like conditions.

The minimum wage in Israel is among the highest for OECD countries (3850 NIS, $1000), but the level of enforcement is low and at least 13%-16% of workers in Israel receive less than the minimum wage, which is illegal. According to a recent survey by Kav LaOved most Thai agricultural workers earn much below the minimum wage, and they are not given social benefits like a pension, paid days off and compensations, which employers are obligated to give them according to the law.