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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Labor Party leader Amir Peretz officially declared his departure as chairman of the Histradrut labor union at a press conference at union headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday, and designated as his successor, trade union division director Ofer Eini.
Peretz's resignation, to be effective January 2, puts an end to a decade of often controversial service at the helm of the country's umbrella workers' union.
Peretz noted that when he started his term as chairman, the Histadrut - founded in Haifa in 1920 - was at the brink of collapse, and that he had led the organization to renewed status in Israeli society. His resignation from the post was widely expected after he emerged as the newly elected leader of the Labor Party on November 10.
Eini's appointment must first be approved by vote of the 30-member Histadrut leadership, at a meeting to be held December 18.
If successful, he then must gain final approval from several hundred senior union members set to gather on December 20.
Eini is the sole candidate in the elections since Histadrut rules allow for Peretz to appoint a successor to complete his term. If approved, Eini would serve as Peretz's replacement until full elections are held in the beginning of 2007, said Histadrut spokesman Avinoam Magen.
Eini, 47, lives in Beersheba, the city of his birth, where he began his career as a tax adviser at the income tax office following his release from the army. He soon rose in the ranks of regional and national workers' committees, and eventually was chosen by Peretz to lead the Histadrut's civil servants division in 1999.
He rose to prominence in the Histadrut while leading a three-month struggle against then finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu's public-sector work force reductions in early 2004.
Following his appointment as head of the trade union division - the Histadrut's number two position - towards the end of last year, Eini led the port workers' fight against Netanyahu's restructuring and partial privatization of the port system, winning them significant compensation. In mid-February, the Finance Ministry agreed to grant NIS 100,000 to each port worker at a total cost of nearly NIS 250 million to the newly created Israel Port Company, a state-owned body that manages port assets.
Eini led negotiations with the Finance and Transportation Ministries on the transformation of the Public Works Authority into the Israel National Roads Company, in which 180 workers were retained by the new body, nearly 300 were laid off, and 60 were transferred to other posts in the public sector.
He also brokered the agreement between Clubmarket workers and Supersol, which bought the remains of the collapsed supermarket chain, securing the jobs - and significant compensation - for all 3,500 Clubmarket employees, the Histadrut said.
Eini has indicated that he would not speak to the press until his appointment is confirmed.
Peretz's pick: Ofer Eini, 47
* Born in Beersheba
* Built career as public-sector tax adviser
* 1999: Chosen by Peretz to lead Histadrut civil servants division
* Early 2004: Fought public sector work force cuts
* Late 2004: Appointed head of Histadrut trade union division
* February 2005: Secured NIS 250m. compensation deal for port workers
* July 2005: Reached compromise on Public Works Authority jobs, allowing creation of Israel National Roads Company
* September 2005: Secured jobs and compensation for Clubmarket workers in Supersol purchase
* December 2005: Chosen to head Histadrut.* D.K.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.