Local authorities go on strike to protest cuts

Union chairman Shlomo Buhbut says some local councils' dire financial straits are the result of government budget cuts to unsustainable levels.

October 5, 2010 01:31
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Local authorities will be on strike across Israel on Tuesday for one day, in response to what they say is a breakdown in negotiations with the government over funding.

Local authorities have requested that the government return some NIS 600 million in budget cuts and NIS 500m. in school funding that has been slashed across the country.

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The school system will continue to operate as normal, but all municipal services, including parking enforcement, sanitation, road repairs and social services, will be closed. The strike affects every local authority in Israel, including in the West Bank, but does not include Jerusalem due to security considerations.

In a statement released Monday, Union of Local Authorities chairman Shlomo Buhbut said, “Out of a sense of national responsibility, we agreed to open the school year in spite of the fact that dozens of municipalities are on the verge of economic collapse and have no way to pay for the services they are required to give their residents.”

Buhbut said that the dire economic straits were the result of “the government’s decision to stop passing on the mandatory government funds.”

He accused the government of “trying to pass the burden [for municipal services] on to citizens and parents.”

The statement warned that Tuesday’s strike was “the first of many planned protests, which are the result of the failure of every effort to reach an agreement with the government over the course of seven months of negotiations.”

One of the planned moves is a protest tent that will be pitched outside the Knesset when its winter session opens next week.

The union added that the national budget for local authorities in 2002 was NIS 3.4 billion, and that instead of rising over the past several years, it was set at NIS 2.4b. for the current year.

The Interior Ministry spokeswoman refused to comment on the strike itself, but said that the ministry did support increasing the budgets for local authorities in need.

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