Shekel money bills.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who is also serving as acting finance minister – and told him it was legally inappropriate to raise the minimum wage prior to elections.
Weinstein explained that his recommendation was based on the ethical position that major decisions should not be made by caretaker governments, but stopped short of issuing a legal ruling. The attorney-general also noted that the wage increase agreed to by the government was still too low to satisfy the unions.
By characterizing his position as a recommendation not a ruling, Weinstein may have left room for the government to push back and press him to decide whether there is a real legal prohibition, or whether his instruction is nonbinding.
On Sunday, Netanyahu instructed the Finance Ministry to adopt an agreement reached between the Histadrut labor federation and business leaders raising the minimum wage from NIS 4,300 a month to NIS 5,000 over two years.
The groups had sealed the deal under threat of a general strike in early December, when it became clear the government coalition would fall apart, but the public sector portion of the deal was set aside due to the new political reality.
Netanyahu instructed the Finance Ministry to prepare the agreement for a hearing in committee.
The Histadrut argued that the agreement was signed before elections were officially called, and called for advancing legislation to enshrine the new wage in law before the March vote takes place.
“There is no reason that 700,000 families should pay the price of political wars,” the union wrote in a statement.
Manufacturers Association of Israel President Zvi Oren, who represented the business groups in negotiations with the Histadrut, said private sector actors would not move on the minimum wage on their own if the Knesset did not legislate.
The Labor Party said it would work to advance such legislation in the current Knesset session.
“Unlike Netanyahu, who in his term saw wages drop dramatically and suddenly remembered before election that he is social, we will lead a democratic process to increase the minimum wage,” read a statement by party leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.
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