Treasury, Histadrut meeting ends without deal

Representatives set to present positions to National Labor Court; Eini: Strike will continue into the weekend.

February 9, 2012 19:41
3 minute read.
Demonstration in front of Labor Court

Demonstration in front of Labor Court 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

A meeting between Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini Thursday on stopping the general strike ended without a resolution.

According to a spokesman for the Histadrut, the two sides were close to signing an agreement, which was stymied by one final paragraph.

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National Labor Court President Nili Arad held a brief hearing around 9 p.m. Thursday, where representatives for both sides reported on the status of negotiations. Arad ordered the two sides to continue their talks on Friday, and to report back to her at 3 p.m., effectively allowing the strike to continue.

Speaking with Channel 10 news, Eini said that the general strike would continue into the weekend, pending a breakthrough.

The paragraph in the agreement preventing a resolution includes a stipulation that that the relevant parties would not call a general strike until 2016.

Arad's evening deadline for a deal came after the Treasury and the Histadrut sent a joint message on Thursday afternoon announcing that they formulated a document setting out common principles, that their legal teams are within hours of putting together a final version of the document.

In addition, the Histadrut announced to the court that it has signed a general collective agreement with the Manufacturers Association of Israel regarding the main issues of the dispute.

Arad said that if the parties cannot reach an agreement, she will convene a meeting with the Treasury, Histadrut and the Manufacturer's Association at 7 p.m. before deciding whether to issue an injunction to prevent continued striking.

The Transportation Ministry announced that it will bolster bus services in the event that the general strike continues into the afternoon and Israel Railways does not resume its activity, Army Radio reported on Thursday.

After a night of extending deadlines and intensive negotiations, the two sides had been on the verge of signing an agreement to end a general strike in its second day. According to preliminary reports, the Histadrut's agreement includes two parts: a deal reached with private employers Tuesday and a deal with the government.

The Finance Ministry reportedly agreed to absorb a small number of contract workers as full time employees and increase salaries and benefits for cleaning workers and social workers.

The agreement with private employers, settled with the Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations, includes a partial transfer of cleaning workers to direct employment, transfer of contract workers whose jobs mirror directly employed workers into direct employment and giving full worker's rights to those who remain as contract workers.

FICC opposes legally enforced direct employment

Meanwhile, later on Thursday morning, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC) set out its position regarding contract workers in its emerging agreement with the Treasury and Histadrut.

FICC president attorney Uriel Lynn said the organization continued to oppose legally enforced direct employment, and added that employers should be able to agree to direct employment voluntarily.

However, FICC said it agreed to improve working conditions for agency workers. Lynn said the right way to do so was via wide-ranging agreements over basic rights, including minimum wage and other social benefits. Agreements should be made with each individual industry sector, Lynn said, and added that mandatory pension agreements for employees are already in place.

"Forcing direct employment would remove from employers the freedom to manage their businesses, and prevent them from adapting employment structures to changing market conditions," Lynn said. "Under those conditions, many businesses would not survive and the entire Israeli economy would lose its ability to compete globally. Instead of boosting employment, it would lead to increased unemployment."

The FICC said it opposed the agreement reached between the Manufacturers Association of Israel and the Histadrut over contract workers.

The FICC represents most of the country's trade and services sector, which according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, is 65% of business sector output and Israel's largest employment sector. During the past decade, 427,000 jobs were created in the sector, compared with 20,000 in the industrial sector.

A list of who is striking and what services will be affected is available here. staff contributed to this report.

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