After failed talks with PM, Histadrut prepares for strike

Netanyahu, Steinitz to announce plan today to deal with price hikes; social workers decide to declare labor dispute.

By
February 9, 2011 22:11
3 minute read.
HISTADRUT CHAIRMAN Ofer Eini

Eini Minimum Wage 311. (photo credit: Ofer Amram)

 
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Large country-wide protests and labor disruptions will pave the way to a general strike in two weeks unless the government takes immediate action to reduce prices of essential commodities and increase the minimum wage, Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini warned on Wednesday evening.

His comments came immediately following talks with Shraga Brosh, chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Israel; Shlomo Buhbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities; and Itzik Shmueli, chairman of the National Union of Students

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Representing elements from the public and private sectors, the joint committee had met earlier in the day with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in an attempt to avert such action. However, following that meeting, the Histadrut released a statement on behalf of the joint committee, saying it was disappointed with the talks and that they had failed to yield results.


“We got no support from the prime minister for any of our requests,” said Eini, describing how the joint committee had asked to increase the minimum monthly wage by NIS 450 and lower the taxes on water, fuel and bread, as well as suggesting the establishment of a committee to investigate ways to reduce the cost of apartments.

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Netanyahu, together with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, had been scheduled to hold a press conference on Wednesday evening to announce their own plan to tackle the sharp price increases for basic goods, but the event was canceled due to Steinitz’s hospitalization for exhaustion and flu late on Tuesday night. The press conference was rescheduled for Thursday.

Netanyahu and Steinitz are expected to put forward minor reductions in indirect taxes, cancellation of the increase in public transportation fares, and other measures, all to be supported by budget cuts to government ministries across the board.

In a televised interview on Wednesday night, however, Eini said he did not have high hopes that the government measures would go far enough. General protests against the price increases could start as soon as this Friday, he said, with members of the youth groups affiliated with the Histadrut taking to the streets to hand out leaflets calling for action.

He also said the Histadrut’s central committee was scheduled to convene on Thursday at 1 p.m. to declare an official labor dispute, allowing the organization to move ahead with plans for a full-scale strike within 14 days.

The Social Workers Union also announced plans on Wednesday for a labor dispute within two weeks, after negotiations to reach an agreement with the Treasury over boosting salaries broke down. The union says that social workers’ salaries have not risen in more than 16 years, and one in every three social workers receives income support.



Following the announcement, recently installed Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) said he planned to hold talks with representatives of the social workers to try and find a solution.

Former welfare and social services minister MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) criticized the prime minister for not responding to citizens, and pointed out that the recent price hikes for bread and other necessary commodities had hurt the middle class.

Shas MK David Azoulay said on Wednesday that if the government did not address the issue as soon as possible, “the public will surely take to the streets.”

In Ramat Hasharon, Mayor Yitzhak Rochberger had already set up a protest tent for residents of the city to come and air their discontent over the price increases.

In a letter sent to city residents, he slammed the “government’s oppressive [economic] policies.”

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