Shekel money bills.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Histadrut Labor Federation declared a labor dispute on Tuesday over the minimum wage, opening a legal door to a full-scale strike in two weeks.
Histadrut chairman Avi Nissankoren called for raising the minimum wage from NIS 4,300 a month (about NIS 24 an hour) to NIS 5,300 (about NIS 30 an hour).
“A significant change must be made, and the working man must be lifted above the poverty line,” Nissankoren said, adding that a NIS 100 or NIS 200 monthly increase would not suffice. With the cost of living so high, he continued, a low minimum wage was unacceptable.
The poverty line in Israel is set at half the median wage.
In 2013, the median wage was roughly NIS 6,500, meaning that a single minimum wage-earner would actually be well above the poverty line.
But the line is defined differently for couples and those with children. For a family of five, for example, the poverty line sits at above NIS 7,000, though if both parents worked and earned the current minimum, they would be above that poverty line as well.
On Monday, both Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett signaled that they were open to a raise in the minimum wage, though neither conceded to Nissankoren’s price point.
“I agree the minimum wage should go up, and not by NIS 100 or NIS 200 [a month], but more,” Bennett said at the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene’s annual conference, “but the process of raising the minimum wage cannot be one-sided.
We cannot come to small and medium businesses that are struggling for survival and impose this on them.”
The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, a business lobby, also emphasized the importance of taking small businesses into account and including them in the negotiations.
Speaking at the Knesset Finance Committee about the 2015 budget, Lapid responded to a question on the subject by saying he “supports the minimum wage,” but “we have to check how not to hurt small businesses.” While big corporations like Teva and the public sector could afford higher wages, he said, smaller businesses might not be able to.
Hadash MK Dov Henin has proposed a NIS 30-an-hour minimum wage bill, and said he would work to advance it within the coming month.