Histadrut, Treasury continue talks to avert general strike

The Union of Local Authorities threatens to join strike unless government takes steps to reduce water costs immediately.

By SHARON WROBEL,
February 18, 2011 06:26
2 minute read.
HISTADRUT CHAIRMAN Ofer Eini

Eini Minimum Wage 311. (photo credit: Ofer Amram)

Talks between the Histadrut labor federation and the Finance Ministry to resolve differences over the government’s measures regarding recent price rises continued late into the night on Thursday.

As of press time, discussions – which commenced on Thursday evening between Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini and Uri Nissan, head of the budget department in the Treasury and Finance Ministry director-general Haim Shani – had not yet yielded an agreement.

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“The discussions are still ongoing. We are hoping that the main differences over the minimum wage and water prices can be resolved overnight,” said the Histadrut labor federation.

In the hopes of averting a general workers’ strike, Eini met with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Thursday morning to discuss ways to bridge differences over the easing measures the government presented last week.

The meeting yielded few results.

Last Thursday, the Histadrut labor federation declared a labor dispute in protest to recent increases in the price of basic goods such as water and bread. The dispute allows the union to launch a strike as early as the end of next week.

At the end of last week, the government announced that it will raise the minimum wage and roll back recent increases for water rates, public transportation and gasoline prices to ease the burden of soaring commodity prices.

The Histadrut labor federation has been arguing that the measures introduced by the government do not go far enough to ease the impact of rising prices and will affect a very small segment of the public.

The union is also fiercely opposed to the government’s announcement that it will finance the easing measures by budget cuts of about 2 percent to government ministries across the board. On Sunday, the cabinet is expected to vote on the sweeping cuts in ministry budgets.

The Union of Local Authorities announced Thursday its intention to join the growing number of labor unions and associations threatening to strike unless the government takes steps to immediately reduce water costs.

“The board of the Union of Local Authorities held an emergency meeting today and decided that unless the government takes immediate measures to reduce the tariff on water, we will continue our struggle in partnership with the Histadrut labor federation and the Manufacturers Association of Israel,” wrote the ULA in a statement released on Thursday.

The union, which is responsible for services such as waste disposal and school transportation, added that unless a solution is found within the next two weeks, it will start to strike.

As well as threats of labor action from the Histadrut, the ULA and the Manufacturers Association, the dispute with the Social Workers Union also remained unsolved Thursday. That organization has threatened to take action within the next week if their demands for a pay increase are not met.


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