Contract workers employed at government offices and local authorities will see their wages rise and conditions improve, according to an agreement signed Tuesday by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini.

Minimum wage for contract workers will increase to NIS 4,500 immediately, with retrospective pay from May 2012. It will then rise to NIS 4,600 in January 2013 and to NIS 4,650 in July 2013, in parallel with the existing collective workplace agreement for permanent public-sector employees.

In addition, contract workers will receive other benefits enjoyed by regular employees, including vouchers for Pessah and Rosh Hashana, more convalescence pay, a 1 percent increase in pension payments and subsidized meals at their place of work.

The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry will add 120 staff to its workplace enforcement division to strengthen supervision. Under the terms of the agreement, ultimate responsibility for the treatment of contract workers will be that of the body that orders the service – i.e., government offices – and not of the contract company itself.

Eini called the agreement “ground-breaking,” saying it brings the conditions of contract workers into line with those of permanent public-sector employees. This is just “the beginning of the road” that restores some dignity to workers, he said, adding that there is still some way to go.

Steinitz said the deal was part of a series of measures aimed at improving the lot of workers in financial distress. The main goal was to strengthen these workers and bridge income gaps, he said.

Tuesday’s deal formalizes a memorandum of understanding signed by the two men on February 12 that ended a four-day Histadrut general strike.

The labor union said it held the strike to achieve better conditions for contract workers – who are mainly employed as cleaners and guards – in the public and private sectors.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger