Negotiations between the Histadrut labor federation and the Finance Ministry ended with no progress Friday afternoon in continued efforts to bring an end to the general strike continued through its third day.
Negotiations between the labor federation’s chairman Ofer Eini and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz also broke down late Thursday night. National Labor Court President Nili Arad on Thursday had ordered the two sides to report to her at 3 p.m. Friday on the status of the talks.
In ruling that the strike could continue Friday, Judge Arad ordered that Ben Gurion Airport and all the country's ports would operate as normal.
In her ruling, made at 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, Arad said that both sides reported making "real progress" in their negotiations, and congratulated the Treasury and the Histadrut. However, the judge said, the parties said there remained several differences that needed to be resolved.
If the two sides are unable to come to an agreement over the weekend to end the conflict, Arad ordered that they must file detailed, written arguments to the court by 10 a.m. Sunday. At that stage, Arad said the court would make a decision regarding whether or not to issue injunctions to terminate the strike.
Arad said that in the light of the sincere efforts made by both sides, they should continue to work to reach a peaceable end to the conflict.
The open-ended general strike began Wednesday at 6 a.m., shutting down basic services including government offices, banks, trains and higher education institutions.
Arad lifted a three-month injunction on the strike last week, saying at the time that there was no choice but to declare that the Histadrut’s negotiations with the Finance Ministry and the Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations, which represents employers, had reached a deadlock.
Eini and Steinitz spent most of Thursday locked in direct discussion, but two stumbling blocks remained. One was Eini’s demand that contract workers whose jobs mirror those of directly employed workers also be transferred to direct employment. The other was Steinitz’s demand that the Histadrut promise not to declare another industrial dispute for at least four years.
Steinitz had apparently already agreed to Eini’s demand that some cleaning workers be moved to direct employment, and that the minimum wage be increased from NIS 4,100 to NIS 4,500 a month.
Eini told Channel 2 News just before entering the courtroom that he would not give up on his remaining demand.
He added that if Steinitz did not give up on his, “this dispute will not end and neither will the strike.”
Joanna Paraszczuk and Nadav Shemer contributed to this report.