(Reposted from Haaretz)

The discussion about the dismissal of some 40 Israel Railways employees, held on Sunday in the regional labor court, shed some more light on an affair motivated by clear and overt discrimination for covert reasons. The affair began when the dismissed workers – who were employed at Israel Railways through the Hashmira human resources agency – demanded that they be reinstated to their jobs as lookouts at level crossings.

They based their demand on the claim that their dismissals stemmed from a new Israel Railways requirement to employ only army veterans in these positions, a stipulation the workers argued contravened the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law and the Basic Law on Freedom of Occupation.

In a written response to the lawyer representing the sacked workers, Israel Railways explained that the position of lookout requires expertise, alertness and discipline – all traits acquired during basic military training – and said it would consider taking the workers back to serve in other positions. But two days ago, management offered different proposals, excuses and explanations. Among other things, it proposed that the workers undergo a one-year training and supervision period, after which, if found suitable, they would be able to keep their jobs. Management also claimed that the dismissals came in the wake of mistakes by the lookouts in their work. This led to a need to rephrase the job tender, they said, and to define the position according to new criteria.

This is shameful conduct. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Israel Railways’ management is trying to correct its mistakes and looking for complicated excuses and convoluted compromises at any price. But these excuses simply emphasize that the workers’ dismissal is directly linked to their origin and that their especially weak socioeconomic status, as Arabs employed by a human resources agency, made it easier for the company to take on new employees as it saw fit.