The Histadrut’s general strike ended only a few hours into its fifth day Sunday,
after the labor federation’s chairman, Ofer Eini, signed an agreement with
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz changing the employment status of tens of
thousands of contract workers.
The general strike began Wednesday at 6
a.m., shutting down basic services including government offices, banks, trains,
higher education institutions and – briefly at the beginning – Ben-Gurion
Airport. According to the Bank of Israel, the strike caused “serious damage to
the Israeli economy” at a time when it was already facing
Eini and Steinitz finalized their agreement just after 8
a.m. Sunday, following intensive overnight talks between representatives for the
two sides, and just hours before National Labor Court President Nili Arad was
due to decide on whether to allow the strike to continue.
Under the deal,
which becomes effective immediately, the Histadrut cannot start any industrial
action over wages in the next three years.
workers, such as social workers and psychologists, whose jobs mirror those of
fulltime workers will move into fulltime employment nine months into their
About 70,000 cleaners and security guards employed as contract
workers in the public sector will have their contracts tied to existing
collective- workplace agreements.
The minimum wage for these contract
workers will rise from NIS 4,100 to NIS 4,500 now; to NIS 4,600 in January 2013;
and to NIS 4,650 in July 2013. Like directly employed workers, they will receive
superannuation contributions, convalescence pay, subsidized meals and holiday
Eini signed a separate agreement late last week with Federation
of Israeli Economic Organizations chairman Shraga Brosh, who represents some of the country’s largest private
Under that agreement, contract workers – such as assembly-
line laborers, hotel maids and delivery people – will move into direct
employment after nine months of work.
Cleaners working at least 170 hours
per month will also move into direct employment after nine months. Cleaners and
security guards who remain as contract workers will receive the same wages and
conditions as their directly employed counterparts.
The two agreements
put an end to more than three months of negotiations over the issue of contract
Arad first ordered the sides to negotiate after allowing the
Histadrut to hold a four-hour strike on November 7.
Binyamin Netanyahu praised the agreement, saying it helps fix “an injustice of
“I congratulate Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and
Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini on coming to an agreement that greatly improves the
wages and working conditions of contract workers,” he said at the opening of the
weekly cabinet meeting.
I would also like to welcome the end of the strike
which was held over an issue that has been neglected for years, that of contract workers.
I congratulate Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Histadrut [labor federation] Chairman Ofer Eini
for reaching an important agreement that very much improves the employment conditions of contract workers.
In my office as well, great personal efforts were made to provide a genuine equality of conditions.
I think that these corrections are acceptable to the Israeli public as a whole.
I think that this is a very important achievement that corrects, in part, decades-old distortions.
Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich
congratulated the Histadrut on its accomplishments, saying conditions have been
improved for hundreds of workers.
“It cannot be that the Histadrut is the
only element fighting for the contract workers,” she said. “The responsibility
for stopping this cruel, ugly phenomenon rests on the government’s and the
Yacimovich blamed a “wild economic approach,” which
she said takes advantage of the weak as much as possible.
social-democratic government is elected, contract work – one of the most serious
problems in Israeli society – will not end,” she said.
MK Ilan Gilon
(Meretz) said the agreement was a small step in the larger battle against
manpower companies, which he claimed take advantage of their workers. Labor laws
should be better enforced, he said, adding that government offices should only
practice direct employment, opposed to hiring contract
Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce president Uriel Lynn,
who heads the largest organization representing the business sector,
congratulated Steinitz and his staff for “seeing the complete global picture”
and not giving in to the Histadrut’s demands to move all contract workers into
However, he slammed the Federation of Israeli Economic
Organizations for its deal with the Histadrut, saying it did not take the
economy into account and had failed in its duty to defend the business
National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itzik Shmuli said the
practice of using contract workers could not be eradicated overnight. But he
praised the agreement as a step that would significantly improve the situation
of contract workers.
Joanna Paraszczuk and Jerusalem Post staff
contributed to this report.