Eini, Treasury make no progress as general strike looms

Steinitz says gov't is making big effort to halt "completely unnecessary strike," is prepared to raise minimum wage for contract workers.

By NADAV SHEMER, JPOST.COM STAFF
November 6, 2011 01:23
3 minute read.
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini

Ofer Eini 311. (photo credit: Courtesy of Histadrut)

Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini and Finance Ministry budget director Gal Hershkovitz concluded a meeting without making any progress late on Saturday night in an effort to avert the general strike set by Eini for Monday morning.

Eini and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz met on Friday afternoon, but failed to agree over the former’s demands on the employment status of contract workers, who receive few of the benefits that those employed directly do. Eini has compared contract workers to slaves.

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The Histadrut is demanding the movement of some contract workers to civil service collective agreements.

The strike is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. on Monday, and to cover airports, seaports, local authorities, government offices and other areas of the public sector. Full details of the strike will be published on Sunday, the Histadrut said.

The government was making a big effort to halt “a completely unnecessary strike,” Steinitz told Channel 2’s Meet the Press on Saturday evening. He said he and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were ready to raise the minimum wage for contract workers and to strengthen protection of their rights, but that they would not do anything that could harm the economy.

“We are ready to take the models of advanced-welfare states such as Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. In Sweden, cleaning and guard work is done by contract workers, but in Sweden they also protect the workers’ rights at all costs,” Steinitz said.

He added, however, that cleaning and security companies serviced the public sector in every OECD-member country, without exception.

Eini declared the general strike on Thursday, saying: “A strike is the last option, but we had no choice after the Treasury announced yesterday that it had no intention of moving contract workers into direct reducing this shameful phenomenon that has taken root in Israeli society.”

The Histadrut is calling for around 100,000 cleaning and maintenance staff, employed as contract workers in the public sector, to be moved to direct employment.

On Friday the Manufacturers Association applied to the National Labor Court for an injunction to halt the strike.

The association said a general strike would cost the economy around NIS 330 million a day, and emphasized that the damage could grow exponentially given the effects of global economic troubles on Israel.

“I’m sorry that it has gotten to a situation in which we need to request an injunction from the labor court to prevent this strike. I’m certain there is no need for a strike, and that we can reach a solution if all sides insist on negotiations and recognize that the status of contract and service workers must improve,” Manufacturers Association chairman Shraga Brosh said.

Brosh called on Netanyahu to use the time remaining until Monday to force Treasury officials to realize that this is not the time to allow a strike.

“I am convinced that the prime minister wants to find a real solution to these problems, but it’s a shame that the Treasury officials who are so steadfast in their own opinions are blocking such a solution.

The Treasury officials refuse to understand that the cost we all pay after a strike or after Knesset intervention will be tenfold the cost of any compromise they must reach to avert the strike.”

JPost.com staff contributed to this report


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