Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A general strike planned for Wednesday was called off Monday, as Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn announced a deal to convert 10,000 government-employed contract workers to salaried employees.
“Today, we are looking our workers in the eye,” said Kahlon. “To the janitor at the hospital that we sometimes pass and don’t notice, to the school nurse whose first treatment we all remember, we look them in the eyes and say, ‘The state is taking responsibility once again.
The state is not dismissing you any more. The state is standing at your side.’” The deal will see some 1,100 social workers become direct employees of local authorities, plus the addition of another 150 social work positions in poorer locales. Student nurses, employees at Ethiopian immigrant absorption centers, Education Ministry-funded assistants at local authorities and workers in the office of the administrator-general will also be taken off temporary contracts. Within four years, paramedics and cleaning staff at government hospitals will join them as direct employees.
The sides also agreed on salary increases and additional benefits for some of workers, including several categories of contract workers that the state will not transfer to direct employment. The Histadrut said the deal would affect some 50,000 workers, while Calcalist estimated that it would cost NIS 150 million.
Nissenkorn said the agreement is “nothing short of a social revolution.”
“We’re giving dignity back to the working person. The state is taking responsibility and returning to a path that advances social issues, while putting the worker in the center,” he added.
For weeks, the Histadrut Labor Federation had been ramping up pressure on the Finance Ministry to reduce the use of contract workers in the government, who generally have less job security and lower pay than regular, salaried workers.
A general strike would have been a blow to Israel’s economy, shutting down the airport, public transport, sea ports, and public services. In recent years, the Histadrut has used the threat of a general strike to bolster its negotiation position, but has often struck deals before the deadline hit.
In March, it called of a general strike in the South over the fate of laid-off workers at Israel Chemicals just before the election. In December, it managed to clinch a deal on raising the minimum wage before a general strike went into effect.
As part of Monday’s deal, the Histadrut promised that it would not threaten a strike over contract workers until the end of 2016.