The Histadrut labor federation on Wednesday declared a work dispute in the public sector which could lead to a general strike on August 3 unless the municipal wage crisis caused by months of unpaid salaries for thousands of local authorities and religious council employees has been resolved. "Since I took up my position as chairman of the Histadrut, I have put this issue to Ehud Olmert, the finance minister at the time demanding the enforcement of unpaid salaries, to which every employee must have a right," said Ofer Eini. The Histadrut can declare a general strike if, after a two-week period on declaring a general dispute, no progress in negotiations has been reached. The potential labor sanctions will affect most public services such as trains, the oil refineries, TV and radio broadcasts, activities at the ports and hospitals and the issuing of passports. In a letter sent last week to Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson, Prime Minister Olmert and Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, Eini wrote that he had tried on a number of occasions in the past to contact Hirchson and Olmert to resolve the municipal wage crisis but no action had been taken. About 4,000 local authorities and religious council employees have not received their monthly salaries for time periods ranging from one month to a year, while 40,000 employees have their pension contributions deducted from their salaries, but which are not being transferred by the local authorities," Sharon Shahar at the Histadrut told The Jerusalem Post. In the matter of abuse of pension contributions, Eini added that the Histadrut had filed a petition with the High Court of Justice that the chief prosecutor's office be ordered to file charges against municipalities that fail to pay in to their employees' pension funds. A first hearing has been scheduled for January 1, 2007. The chief prosecutor has in the past replied to the Histadrut that criminal charges were unwarranted. In addition, the Histadrut noted that the pressure and situation of local authority employees had deteriorated even more since the new overdraft directive had come into effect on July 1. "Unpaid workers are not able to go to their bank clerk and ask for additional credit lines of a few thousand shekels in order to survive. The situation is only getting worse and action needs to be taken," warned Eini. Employees need to regain their respect and dignity, he added. "The indifference of the employers and the central government to the wage deferrals of employees who are carrying out their jobs, especially in the public sector, is, in my opinion, a severe warning sign of the deep and negative changes in the basic values of the State of Israel," Eini said.