Trash piles up during Local Authorities strike 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A general strike by municipal authorities was set to continue for a
second day Tuesday, but without the participation of Likud-led cities
such as Netanya, Modi’in and Nazareth Illit.
The Union of Local Authorities (IULA) strike began Monday, bringing to a
halt municipal services including parking inspectors, school buses,
garbage collectors, welfare offices, security guards at educational
institutions and meat and fish inspections.
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Nazareth Illit mayor Shimon Gabso said at a Likud meeting Monday that mayors affiliated to the party would end their participation in the strike should the union refuse a request from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss its main concerns.
Netanyahu called earlier for the union to end its strike, and said its demands could be met within a short period of time. However, he said the government could not expand the budget beyond the country’s means, referring to the global economic troubles that saw S&P downgrade the credit ratings of France and other EU members this week.
The IULA says it is protesting a recent decision to increase arnona (municipal property tax) against its wishes, as well as “populist laws and bills that direct money away from education, student safety, transport, the environment, welfare, culture and pensioners. Its list of demands includes cancellation of the 16 percent value added tax on water, and the return of NIS 500 million to a section of the education budget reserved for local authorities.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) and Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich both backed the strike during their respective party meetings Monday. Livni said the mayors were staging the strike not to protect their own rights, but rather to protect their duty to serve their residents. Yacimovich said the government was abandoning local authorities, who “are not some trivial sector, but rather part of the state itself.”
Former journalist Yair Lapid, who is forming a political party, said the cause behind the strike was just, but that the strike itself was not. The mayors are correct because Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s arnona program is “populist and damaging,” and is designed to obtain property tax exemptions for his own Haredi constituency,” Lapid said. But he added that the strike would cost the economy NIS 2.3 billion each day, and urged the IULA to give Netanyahu a chance to meet their demands.
The union said special institutions for disabled children would operate as usual on Tuesday, following criticism from Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon over their inclusion in the first day of the strike. An estimated 146,000 children with disabilities were stranded at home because of the strike on Monday.
“While I support the freedom for workers to take strike action, children with disabilities should not be part of this game,” said Kahlon, who was speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem showcasing the various programs and treatments his ministry provides for the country’s poorest sectors.