The Histadrut labor federation elected Avi Nissankoren as its new chairman on Tuesday, following six months of appeals, court rulings and political maneuvering.
Outgoing chairman Ofer Eini recommended Nissankoren, head of the Histadrut trade union division, as his successor in November, when he announced his decision to step down. But despite having clear support from within the upper echelons of the establishment, Nissankoren faced an outside challenge from Labor MK Eitan Cabel.
Cabel, who had unsuccessfully challenged Eini in the previous election, sought to deny Nissankoren easy approval through the Histadrut leadership, hoping instead to call for a general election.
Eini was forced to postpone his resignation, set for February, after the appeals process threw a wrench in the plan to swiftly install Nissankoren.
Cabel’s efforts, however, eventually stalled, as the courts ruled in favor of the Histadrut. On Tuesday, its voting committee chose Nissankoren as the 14th chairman, effective June 1.
Nissankoren praised Eini for making the union “strong than ever” and promised to fight for fair wages and reduced inequality.
“From the deep belief in the value of equality and narrowing social gaps, I am committed to the Histadrut being a leader in these fields,” he said.
Eini did his best to clear the way for Nissankoren to take over the mantle of tough negotiations with the government.
“He’s no sucker,” he said. “I’m telling the government already: Make no mistake, reach out a hand and you will have a serious partner.”
The Histadrut has clashed with the government on economic reforms such as building private ports, approving the Open Skies agreement and dealing with doctors’ and nurses’ wages.
Eini said the first issues Nissankoren should address are: the gender wage gap, work on which was already in progress; and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s plan to introduce flexible hours, an issue that seems innocuous but would have grave implications for worker incomes.