National Employment Service employees on Wednesday agreed to return to work temporarily, starting Thursday morning, following a one day strike.
They warned that work sanctions would be renewed next week unless the Finance Ministry gives in to their demand for more manpower.
Wednesday morning, all Employment Service offices nationwide did not provide reception hours for the unemployed, in protest over the Treasury's refusal to add additional staff needed to cope with a growing number of job seekers in recent months.
"We hope the Finance Ministry will finally recognize the distress at the Employment Service offices and understand that it needs to increase the current standard set for manpower so that the unemployed will be able to receive the service they deserve," Aharon Hotoboli, chairman of the Employment Service's workers' union, said Wednesday.
A second chance for negotiations had been given after a request by Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, but talks with the Finance Ministry were not taking place, he said.
"The pressure on the workers is unbearable," Hotoboli said. "We are at the point of collapse; every clerk deals with about 200 job seekers a day. This is an impossible situation that is leading to verbal and physical violence by job seekers and does not allow us to offer reasonable and proper service."
NES figures published Tuesday showed that a record 19,719 workers lost their jobs in January, the most ever for a single month. The NES research division said the number of job seekers was expected to exceed 260,000 by the end of 2009.
"In a time when the economy is faced with an economic crisis, the director of the National Employment Service is making exuberant demands, asking for 60 additions," the Finance Ministry said Wednesday in response to the strike. "The Treasury has offered a number of solutions to the management of the Employment Service, which were refuted. We regret that the Employment Service is acting in an irresponsible manner, taking advantage of the situation and abandoning job seekers in these difficult times."
Hotoboli said decision-makers were ignoring the plight of hundreds of thousands of unemployed. He said they were wasting millions of shekels on pilot programs such as "Lights for Employment" instead of providing additional manpower for the Employment Service.