Strikes over wages, collective agreements and the contract status of contract workers cost the economy more than half a million workdays last year, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry reported Sunday.

Twenty-five strikes were held in 2011, with the participation of 290,820 workers, costing the economy 556,748 workdays, the ministry said. Twenty-four strikes were held the previous year, but only 35,844 workers participated in those strikes, causing the loss of 168,864 workdays.

The health system was disrupted by strikes for most of 2011, which finally ended in December when representatives of hospital residents signed an agreement with the Treasury amending the collective agreement the Israel Medical Association signed at the end of August.

The largest strike took place on November 7, when the Histadrut protested the employment status of contract workers by shutting down basic services, including government offices and public transportation, for four hours. This turned out to be a prelude to a four-day general strike in February, which ended when Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed an agreement changing the contract workers’ status.

Three-quarters of the strikes held in 2011 took place in the public sector. Ninety-nine percent of strike participants came from the public sector, indicating that the six private-sector strikes involved a relatively small amount of workers.

Nine of the 25 strikes were held over wage disputes, eight over the signing of new collective agreements and four over worker layoffs.

The rest were over organizational changes or were connected to disputes over worker representation.

Thirteen of the 25 strikes were resolved within one day, while seven lasted two to 24 days, four lasted 25 to 49 days and one (the medical residents) ran for more than 50 days.

Shlomo Yitzhaki, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry’s director of workplace relations, said the data showed that relations between workers and employees had deteriorated in 2011. Citing the doctors’ strikes, general strike and lengthy strikes by public-sector social workers, he said the stability of previous years had been broken.

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