Israel goes on strike: Schools, waste disposal to stop in protest over cuts

Jerusalem is the only unaffected authority in the country.

December 21, 2016 05:57
2 minute read.

Empty Classroom. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

After overnight negotiations with the government failed, as of 6 o'clock Wednesday morning all local, regional and municipal authorities outside of Jerusalem will begin a widespread strike.

The action will hit a range of public services across the country, shutting down waste disposal and sanitation, social services, cultural institutions, municipal security, high schools and kindergartens.

Primary school teachers will not strike, however their schools will be without secretarial, sanitation and caretaker staff. Special education programs are also exempt from the strike. The Ministry of Education clarified, however, that even at institutions where teaching staff are not on strike, classes will convene only if security guards are present.

Garbage piles up in Jerusalem after a strike earlier in 2016. (Credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The strike has been called in response to widespread cuts approved by the government in the latest budget.

Jerusalem will be the only city not affected, as its services are funded from a different budget to the striking authorities. Schools and other services in the capital are expected to continue as normal.

The heads of the authorities on strike are set to gather at 11 o'clock on Wednesday morning, with further announcements expected following the meeting.

The strike was called after the Finance Committee approved on Sunday a flat budget cut of NIS 2.1b. Additionally, the cabinet also approved Sunday morning a surprise NIS 1.2b. flat cut, which was later also approved by the Finance Committee.

Reacting on Tuesday, head of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel and Modi’in Mayor Haim Bibas told The Jerusalem Post: “We have been in talks all day with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance and Interior Ministries, but as it seems right now the head of the Finance Ministry’s Budget Department is calling the shots and a strike is highly likely.”

According to Bibas, the cut will affect 190 of Israel’s socioeconomically weakest authorities which rely on the balancing budget to function.

“This hurts the weakest municipalities most of all, the peripheral towns and communities, all the authorities with residents who vote for this government. If you make the cut from a city with large reserves it makes no difference, but here we are talking about authorities that cannot balance their budget without this money,” Bibas explained.

“The truly weak authorities get cut in order to finance coalition deals. It’s a sad joke. We see hundreds of millions of shekels flying around on coalition agreements.”

The Finance Ministry disagreed with Bibas’s evaluation of the amount to be cut. A representative of the Ministry told the Post that the cut will amount to only NIS 37.7 Million which translate to NIS 189,000 average cut per authority.

This however does not entirely add up, as the cabinet’s proposed cut alone states that municipal authorities are to be cut by more than NIS 44 million.

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