Cars come to a standstill as the light rail passes outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
The Jerusalem Municipality Workers Union announced Saturday night a general strike, starting at midnight, following Mayor Nir Barkat’s declaration last week that 2,150 workers will be laid off due to a budget strife with the Finance Ministry.
The union’s chairman, Avichai Avraham, said in a statement that all services – including garbage removal and reception of the public in the municipally itself and its branches – will be halted.
“All the services that are provided by the Jerusalem municipality are striking,” the statement reads. “All, except education institutes – in order to avoid harming the residents of the city.”
Avraham said that if Barkat would not retract the order to fire municipality employees, schools will be included in further striking.
Media reports say that as of now, the strike is not limited by time.
This move comes amidst an ongoing strife between Barkat and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Last week Barkat said in a press conference in City Hall that because Kahlon is preventing necessary budgets to the capital, he is forced to fire over 2,000 employees. Later he announced that the firing process has started.
Barkat said that Kahlon’s motives are personal and political and that in several instances he blocked legislation initiatives and administrative steps to enlarge the municipal budget of Jerusalem.
The mayor said that treasury officials have renounced past commitments to provide additional funding to the city. He even filed a petition to the High Court of Justice for this case.
In response to a letter sent by Barkat to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet, the Finance Ministry pointed out that during Kahlon’s tenure the special grant to Jerusalem doubled, reaching an all-time high.
“During the period of Minister Kahlon, Jerusalem was given a special grant in an unprecedented sum of more than NIS 3 million,” the ministry said. “Moreover, Kahlon lowered corporate tax in Jerusalem to 7.5% to attract companies and factories to the city while encouraging government companies to move to the city.”
“Jerusalem is above any dispute, and the Finance Ministry will keep strengthening it and its residents just as it did until now,” it said.