(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Representatives of the Finance Ministry and the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel agreed on Wednesday evening to stop the allout strike in municipal authorities after only 10 hours. The sides will reconvene on Sunday to negotiate a permanent end to the strike.
“It is legally forbidden to make agreements and discuss budgetary allocations during the 24-hour period before the budget vote [in the Knesset], so we couldn’t talk about money anyway. Hence we stopped our negotiations with the Finance Ministry and also agreed to end the strike until Sunday. On Sunday, the sides will reconvene and find a solution satisfactory to both of us,” a representative of the Federation of Local Authorities told The Jerusalem Post.
The strike was announced on Tuesday evening as a preventative measure, in anticipation of the cuts to the local authority budgets proposed in the Economic Arrangements Bill.
The Knesset was voting on the bill on Wednesday, along with the 2017- 2018 state budget.
“Overall, they did two cuts that will amount to NIS 178 million that will be taken out of the authorities’ ‘balancing budgets,’ used by the authorities to provide the most basic municipal services,” Haim Bibas, head of the federation and mayor of Modi’in, told the Post on Tuesday.
According to the Federation of Local Authorities representative, in addition to the legal issues, the strike was stopped after the Finance Ministry agreed to include the federation’s main demand in Sunday’s negotiations.
The representative believes that it is likely that an agreement will indeed be hammered out on Sunday.
“What Haim Bibas asked for is that during the first part of 2017, meaning between January and June, the authorities will receive all their budgets as if no cuts have been made, and in July we will talk again. This means half of the proposed 178m. cut will be transferred throughout the first half year,” explained the Federation of Local Authorities representative.
”This is the main demand the Finance Ministry previously refused to consider, and over which it blew up the negotiations.”
The Finance Ministry, however, refused to comment on the likeliness of accepting any of Bibas’s demands on Sunday, saying only that “all options will be considered.”
“The only thing we agreed on is that they stop the strike and meet with us on Sunday; beyond that nothing was agreed on,” Finance Ministry spokeswoman Yael Ben Simchon told the Post.
If the conflict is not resolved on Sunday, it is likely that the strike will resume on Monday morning.
As of 6 on Wednesday morning, all local, regional and municipal authorities outside of Jerusalem had begun a widespread strike.
The strike hit a range of public services, shutting down waste disposal and sanitation, social services, cultural institutions, municipal security, and some education institutions.
Parents were forced to find alternative child care solutions as preschools and kindergartens shut down. High schools also canceled classes for the day after the Secondary School and College Teachers Organization joined the strike in solidarity.
The special education system operated as usual.
Elementary schools teachers announced they would work and showed up to school on Wednesday morning; however the secretarial, security and caretaker staff as well as drivers were on strike, making it difficult for classes to be held in many institutions.
The Jerusalem Municipality announced on Tuesday night that classes would be held as usual, since the city, which is funded from a separate budget, was not affected by the strike.