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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responded to the resolution of the general public sector strike on Wednesday by saying that Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini "is apparently in love with drama," and that there was "no reason for the strike," Army Radio reported.
The prime minister added that he was happy that all the workers were receiving their salaries, even if the payment "consisted of the criminal negligence of the local government."
Bar-On: General strike is unjustified
The Histadrut and the Interior Ministry signed a deal shortly before 5:30 p.m., ending the general strike that affected most of the nation's public services.
Interior Ministry Director-General Ram Belinkov pledged to give the Histadrut a majority of the unpaid salaries by Thursday morning.
A deal was also struck to pay 600 employees in the more problematic local authorities by means of a loan from a Histadrut fund which the government would guarantee.
In addition, significant progress had been made in resolving the issue of unpaid religious council workers, Army Radio reported.
Despite the strike, Ben Gurion Airport was operating almost as normal, with masses of flights taking off and landing since the morning, thanks to the approval of the Exceptions Committee.
The first planeload of England fans was given approval to land Wednesday afternoon.
Hisdatrut Chairman Ofer Eini, Ra'anan Dinur, director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Belinkov and Finance Ministry Director-General Yarom Ariav had been meeting for several hours in the office of National Labor Court Judge Steve Adler to try and reach a breakthrough.
A senior official in the Histadrut estimated that the two sides would soon strike a deal but that the main sticking point was the inability of the government ministries to provide written proof that money had been transferred for most of the unpaid workers.
The strike began Wednesday morning after last minute talks between the Histadrut and the Finance and Interior Ministries broke down. The National Labor Court had postponed the strike until 9 a.m. to allow more time to solve the crisis of unpaid local and religious council workers.
The National Labor Court has not ruled on the strike's legality.
Eini said that he had worked hard to reach a solution so that all public sector workers would receive their salaries, adding that the Histadrut had even agreed to distribute loans to workers in the more problematic local authorities on condition that employees in all other municipalities got paid.
"We were close to an agreement but the government ministries changed their minds," Eini told reporters outside the court.
"Starting at 9.a.m. a public sector general strike will commence, on the same scale that we planned yesterday," he said.
Eini said that the strike would be open ended and that it would continue as long as the government ministries fail to come up with a solution to the crisis of the unpaid public sector employees.
The court's decision to delay the strike came after the government ministries asked the court to intervene Tuesday night following a failure to reach an agreement with the labor federation regarding the unpaid wages.
Histadrut spokesman Eyal Malma told The Jerusalem Post late Tuesday night before the hearing that the open-ended strike would proceed as planned.
"The prime minister promised to find a full solution," Histadrut Labor Federation head Ofer Eini said Tuesday. "We gave him time to assure that no employee, not today and not in the future, will fail to receive his salary on time. We have waited for three weeks, but, unfortunately, even now no solution has been reached.
"Meanwhile, 3,758 workers in 36 local councils and 16 religious councils haven't received their salaries. It is time to erase this disgrace," he said.
The labor leader said a worker had called him and requested the strike, "So we can regain our dignity and look our children in the eye and celebrate the holiday with something to put on the table."
Eini apologized to the public and said, "We have no intention to harm the public, and we will do anything we can to minimize the inconvenience."
Approximately 400,000 were taking part in the strike.
The announcement came despite an earlier promise by Interior Ministry Roni Bar-On that by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, salaries would be paid to a majority of the unpaid municipality employees.
"We will transfer [money] to those authorities eligible to receive their wages, except for six or seven local authorities whom we informed from the outset that there would be no solution," Bar-On had announced.