municipality protest 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu summoned Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz,
Interior Minister Eli Yishai and the heads of local authorities to a late-night
meeting Saturday in a last-minute effort to prevent a strike across the country
the next day.
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The meeting followed calls by Yishai and Minister of
Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog to try to bridge gaps between the
parties before employees of local authorities launched an open-ended strike on
Sunday if a deal was not reached between the workers’ union and the
The meeting did not come to an end before press
The strike would not include Haifa and Jerusalem. Haifa was left
off the list after Mayor Yona Yahav said he did not want the city to take part;
and Jerusalem was left off, as usual, due to security concerns. Jerusalem Mayor
Nir Barkat added that he did not want the city to take part in order to minimize
the suffering of its residents.
Following news of the impending strike,
the Education Ministry announced that schools would operate as usual and would
not be affected by the work stoppage.
The Union of Local Authorities is
demanding a reduction in water prices and a budget increase of NIS 500 million
for schools and NIS 600m. for local authorities. These funds have been cut from
the national budget in recent years, and the union says the budget shortfalls
have made it exceedingly difficult to carry out their operations.
moment, there are 22 local authorities in Israel that the union says are having
serious problems with workers’ salaries.
Union spokeswoman Linda Sasson
said Saturday night that talks were not being held with the government, and that
no progress had been reached on a compromise. She added that all signs pointed
to the strike going into effect on Sunday.
If the strike goes through,
the city halls of all participating cities will be closed and resident help
lines will not be manned. Sanitation services will not operate.
welfare services will not be available and centers for senior citizens will be
Fire and Rescue Services will operate according to a Shabbat
schedule. Parking inspectors won’t give out tickets, but police will still fine
drivers parking in red-and-white-marked sections of the road. All municipal
renovation programs and road work will be put on hold.
Herzog had called
on Netanyahu and Steinitz to make every effort to prevent the potential
“A culture exists in Israel that ignores the threat of a strike
right up until the last minute, and this is a mistake,” said Herzog in a
statement. “I know the local authorities cannot afford to pay their share of the
social services, and this is a complex problem affecting not only the poorer
population but also middle-class communities.
“The budget that passed
last week allows the government to respond to the distress call of the local
government,” Herzog added. “The prime minister and finance minister must
therefore come to their senses quickly and find a solution that will avert this
crisis.”Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.