Lapid speaking at the Knesset 150.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid is considering steps to stymie labor unions’ ability
to strike, a spokesman confirmed on Monday, to the dismay of opposition leader
Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and the Histadrut labor federation.
Lapid promised not to pursue any action to eliminate or even limit the National
Labor Court following a meeting with Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, he
would not rule out other avenues of circumscribing the situations under which
unions are allowed to strike.
Under the law, the Histadrut has the
authority to shut down basic services including public transportation, schools,
trash collection, commercial ports and the airport in a general
An analysis based on data collected by the International Labor
Organization found that Israel spends more time on strike than any European
nation for which data was available, with the occasional exception of
From 1999-2007, for every thousand people who work in Israel,
390 of them will be on strike a day each year. In contrast, the corresponding
figure for the United States hovered near zero most years.
[Histadrut chairman Ofer] Eini was appointed, the number of strikes in the
economy has dropped,” the Histadrut said when asked to comment on the
“The Histadrut believes in negotiating and not
Strikes are a means, not a goal.”
Following a two-day
airline strike over the Open Skies agreement last week, Eini threatened a
general strike, saying he would use “all available means” to prevent cuts to
government workers’ salaries and retirees’ pensions.
Eini will gather the
Histadrut’s governing bodies on Tuesday, and is expected to declare a general
labor dispute, a necessary precursor to a strike.
In his quest to cut
billions of shekels from the 2013- 2014 budget and bring down the deficit from
around 4.5 percent of the GDP to its 3 percent target, Lapid has promised to
reexamine agreements signed with previous governments.
“There are those
in the Finance Ministry trying to drag the minister into a war with organized
labor and cause an earthquake in Israeli society,” the Histadrut said in
response to reports of Lapid’s plans.
“The time has come for the finance
minister to expel from his vicinity those working against the Israeli economy
and trying, once more, to make the working man a hostage, lacking basic
Yacimovich railed against the possibility of limiting organized
labor at a Labor faction meeting Monday afternoon.
“If this government is
so democratic, what has happened to the important basic right for which many in
the world have fought and shed blood over, and is anchored in international
accords – the right to strike and to unionize?” she asked.
Yacimovich, organized labor is the only way in which workers can fight back when
someone wants to unilaterally curtail their rights.
The Labor leader also
criticized rumors that Lapid wants to raise the number of workers necessary to
“This is evil, because in any case workers in small companies
are afraid to unionize,” she said. “Who do they want to harm? This is the
working middle class. If they declare war on the workers, there will be a
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) submitted an urgent request to discuss the
matter in the Knesset’s plenum.
“The reforms [Prime Minister Binyamin]
Netanyahu and Lapid are promoting leave the working man alone without a safety
net to protect him from his employers,” Gilon said.
“Under the guise of
new politics, Lapid is retreading Netanyahu’s old policies and bringing us back
to the dark days in which the right to strike and the labor laws were a distant