After three weeks of striking, social workers are set to return to work Tuesday, as their union, backed by the Histadrut labor federation, finally reached an agreement with the Finance Ministry. The agreement will result in the salaries of some 10,000 public-sector social workers increasing by an average of NIS 1,000 a month.

The compromise was reached under the auspices of the National Labor Court president, Judge Nili Arad, who had been called on earlier in the day to issue an immediate return-to-work order.

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“We do not see this as a victory, but it is the maximum that we could get for social workers, who have suffered for years from low pay,” said David Golan, spokesman for the Social Workers Union, who was present at Monday’s negotiations.

Golan said social workers from both the public and private sectors will receive an immediate NIS 2,000 bonus, and those in the public service will not be required to work extra hours for the additional NIS 1,000-a-month increase.

Under the deal, the increase will be received over the next three years.

“We will continue to push for change, but the social workers will most likely be returning to work Tuesday,” Golan said.

On Sunday, around 3,000 social workers rallied outside the Treasury in Jerusalem, calling on officials to return to the negotiating table after the offer was turned down last week by the union.

The Finance Ministry subsequently petitioned the Labor Court to force the social workers back to the workplace.

As news of the strike’s end became clear Monday night, social workers countrywide expressed disappointment on a Facebook page which has more than 10,000 members.

Many said they felt their battle had achieved nothing, and they were concerned they would not be paid for some of the days they did not work during the strike.

“How can we return to work with this negative feeling?” one social worker asked on the social networking site.

Another responded, “We will go to work with a smile plastered on our face as usual and receive all our clients.”

Others demanded Social Workers Union head Itzhak Perry step down after failing to achieve more far-reaching changes that the workers had initially called for – including an overhaul of the pay scales, which have not changed for 17 years.

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