Amid wage protests, Histadrut advances strike for Wednesday

Strike would shutter schools, buses, airport authority and government services.

December 21, 2015 20:36
2 minute read.

An Egged bus sits in a parking lot . (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Histadrut labor federation on Monday laid out details for a planned public sector strike Wednesday, which would shut down huge swaths of the economy.

The strike, planned for 6 a.m. Wednesday, would include government ministries, Egged public transport, schools, the airport and port authorities and government-owned cultural centers, such as the Israel Museum.

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The intensified strike threat comes amid stalled negotiations over public sector wages, which the Histadrut says have not increased in three years, though a recent Finance Ministry report found that they had increased faster than private sector wages in a similar time period.

“The state must take care of the weak and middle class, and the sooner the better,” said Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn, adding that the strike is a simple means to a necessary end.

“The Histadrut’s declaration of a strike in the middle of negotiations is totally unnecessary, and harms the wider public. There is no reason to punish Israel’s citizens,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said.

The Finance Ministry estimates that a strike will cost the economy between NIS 1 billion and NIS 3b. a day.

The negotiations, Kahlon said, were a “one-time opportunity” to help reduce inequality. Some of the Histadrut’s demands, Kahlon argued, would benefit highest earners in the public sector, who don’t need the help.

Finance Ministry negotiators staked out the position that any wage increase should be differential, not across-theboard, as negotiations continued throughout the day. Since inflation has been negative this year, they noted, workers “real wages,” which represent their buying power, will have increased.

“There is no benefit in wage increases once again going to the high earner, and we are sure that the Histadrut understands that,” he said.

Nissenkorn countered, “The Histadrut will know how to regulate and divide the wage increases in every workplace and organization for the benefit of the weak workers.”

Many previous strike threats have been averted by last minute deals.

In Jerusalem, some 1,500 protesters, according to a Histadrut count, gathered outside the Finance Ministry, shouting, “We’re not making ends meet.”

Political supporters from the Left threw their weight behind the Histadrut.

“There is no strike or protest more justified than this one,” said Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli.

A recent poverty report that showed 18.8 percent of Israeli families living in poverty, he said, demonstrated the need to increase salaries.

Joint List MK Dov Henin agreed.

“Social workers, nurses, teachers and many other workers in the public sector do not receive an appropriate salary given the important and difficult work they do.

The strike the Histadrut called is correct and on time,” he said.

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