An unlimited general strike called by the Histadrut labor federation due to worker safety fears is set to paralyze the country’s public and private sectors from Wednesday.
Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn announced the planned strike on Thursday at an emergency meeting in Tel Aviv as frustration continues to grow over perceived government failures to tackle the rising death and injury toll at the country’s construction sites.
A total of 37 construction workers have died and 191 have been injured – 38 of those seriously – so far this year, according to data compiled by the NGO Workers Hotline. In 2017, 35 construction workers died and 264 were injured.
“If we can’t find a solution, there will be a tough strike. Every one of us will strike, and will know that he is striking in order to save lives until a solution is found. For a small price, we will save lives,” said Nissenkorn.
The strike will affect large sectors of the Israeli economy, including government ministries, public authorities, universities, transport services, the Airports Authority and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange
. They will be joined by a range of major private sector unions.
“Imagine the scene: A person wakes up in the morning, eats breakfast early, sees and wishes his children a good day, takes a sandwich, goes to work and doesn’t return. Dead or seriously injured,” said Nissenkorn. “What is the problem in saying that European regulations apply here?”
The Finance Ministry said in response that construction site security was of high importance and it was working to improve the current situation.
“The Ministry of Finance places great importance on improving the level of work safety at construction sites and is assisting the Ministry of Labor and Social Services in implementing measures for this purpose,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Finance permits the Ministry of Labor and Social Services to use all the unmanned capacity in the ministry’s various units, currently standing at 100 positions that can be used to increase enforcement at construction sites.”