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The Histadrut Labor Federation on Sunday decided to declare a general public-sector strike starting this week unless the government resumes payment of salaries and pension contributions to local authority workers.
"We have given due credit to the Finance Ministry, Interior Ministry and the National Labor Court over the past months, but at least 40 local authorities and religious councils still have been depriving their employees of wages and pension payments," Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said. "We see no other choice than taking union action after the National Labor Court was unable to solve the problem of postponed salary payments for municipal workers."
Eini sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Sunday evening, calling for an emergency meeting of the government to enable the immediate transfer of salaries and pension contributions to tens of thousands of municipal workers.
High schools to be closed Monday
"The public-sector strike can only be prevented through the involvement and commitment of the prime minister and a government decision to transfer the salary and pension payments," Eini said.
Earlier Sunday, Eini met for several hours with public-sector unions and legal committees, and decided to resort to a strike, which could affect government offices, local municipalities, ports, airports and other public services.
The Histadrut on Sunday evening was debating the exact timing and extent of the strike.
Israel Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh also sent a letter to Olmert, calling for his intervention to help prevent the strike.
"It is outrageous that municipal workers were not paid in months," Brosh wrote. "Were this to happen in the private sector, we would be dealing with numerous court cases claiming damages."
The Federation of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC) estimated that a general public-sector strike would cost the economy NIS 500 million a day, not including banking, health and electricity services.
"There is no justification for hurting the general tax-paying public because the local authorities are not paying their employees," FICC president Uriel Lynn said.
Meanwhile, the Secondary School Teachers Organization announced Sunday that it would continue its strike and partly shut down high schools in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Monday after negotiations with the Finance Ministry failed to reach an agreement over wages.
The labor action followed its strike that began Thursday and continued until Sunday, which closed many high schools throughout the country.