J'lem mayor threatens strike over budget impasse with Finance Ministry

January 24, 2017 15:44

The threat comes one year after a sanitation strike littered the capital and created health hazards.

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Mayor Nir Barkat

Mayor Nir Barkat leads a 2015 protest in front of the Treasury Ministry, against what he deems ‘unfair budget cuts’ by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. (photo credit: Courtesy)

One year after a crippling sanitation strike in the capital, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday threatened a city-wide strike of all municipal workers beginning Sunday over claims that the Finance Ministry has not approved this year’s NIS 800 million municipal budget.

In a sharply-worded letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Barkat accused the ministry of abdicating its financial obligations to the capital after not following through on its purported pledge to allocate the funds for the cash-strapped city.

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“Unfortunately, this promise made by you has been unfulfilled, and you have not transferred the amount the ministry committed,” Barkat wrote, adding that Kahlon also failed to approve funding for the construction of 1,000 much-needed classrooms.

“Failure to pass Jerusalem’s budget seriously undermines the basic services of nearly 900,000 residents of the city, and millions of visitors... The capital of Israel is facing a serious crisis that could lead to a general collapse of services provided to residents of the city, and to those who visit.”

Barkat continued: “Without government aid, all the many achievements we have attained in recent years will go down the drain.”

Citing dramatically improved diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Washington under the Trump Administration, Barkat accused Kahlon of unnecessarily exacerbating the capital’s financial woes amid a perceived reversal of fortune.

“Just at the time that the US strengthens Jerusalem, the Finance Ministry weakens it,” he wrote. “Jerusalem must obtain the appropriate budget without having to beg.”

Tuesday’s threat of a city-wide strike served as a stark reminder of last January’s sanitation strike, which left the capital looking like a dystopian wasteland for several days after Barkat fired 170 workers over that year’s budget shortfall.

After trash piled up throughout the city, sparking concerns of serious health risks, the strike concluded following emergency negotiations between the municipality and ministry, resulting in an agreement to immediately transfer NIS 17 million to rehire the workers.

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