Shekel money bills.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Both Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett signaled that they were open to a rise in the minimum wage Monday, a day before the Histadrut Labor Federation planned to declare a labor dispute on the matter.
The dispute will open the door to a general strike within two weeks, and the Histadrut plans on using that threat to convince the government to raise the wage from the current NIS 24 to NIS 30 an hour, a price point neither Lapid nor Bennett conceded.
“I agree the minimum wage should go up, and not by 100 or 200 shekels [a month], but more,” Bennett said at the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene’s annual conference, before adding, “but the process of raising the minimum wage cannot be one-side. We cannot come to small and medium businesses that are struggling for survival and impose this on them.”
An increase in the order of magnitude the Histadrut is suggesting would raise the monthly minimum wage by roughly NIS 1,000.
If negotiations on the administrative side did not yield results, Bennett said, he would support legislation on the matter. Hadash MK Dov Henin has proposed a NIS 30 an hour minimum wage bill.
Speaking at the Knesset Finance Committee on the 2015 budget, Lapid responded to a question on the subject by saying he “supports the minimum wage, but only for the truly weak, for those who earn NIS 4,300 [a month].”
“The problem is that when you raise the minimum wage, the whole wage table in the economy rises and we have to check how not to hurt small businesses.” While big corporations like Teva and the public sector could afford higher wages, smaller businesses might not be able to.
He was awaiting a reply from Histadrut chairman Avi Nissankoren, he added.
For his part, Nissankoren defended the threat of a general strike, which would shut down the airport, international trade, schools, transport, and other government-run services.
“If a general strike is not justified over the topic of the minimum wage, then I do not know what would justify one,” he said at the same conference at which Bennett spoke.
Though he’s been discussing the issue for five months, he added, there has been no progress. In his estimation, 700,000 employees in Israel earn the minimum wage. “We have no more time for that,” he said.