Trash piles up during Local Authorities strike 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Following a meeting with striking
local authorities Monday night, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said he
supports their demands and will present them to Prime Minister Binyamin
Should Netanyahu approve the demands, the authorities will call off a second day of striking scheduled for Tuesday.
Local Authorities begin open-ended strike
Government approves free education plan
Earlier Monday, Likud-led cities
such as Netanya, Modi’in and Nazareth Illit had promised not to participate in a second day of striking.
The Union of Local Authorities (IULA) strike began Monday, bringing to a
halt municipal services including parking inspectors, school buses,
garbage collectors, welfare offices, security guards at educational
institutions and meat and fish inspections.
Illit mayor Shimon Gabso said at a Likud meeting Monday that mayors
affiliated to the party would end their participation in the strike
should the union refuse a request from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
to discuss its main concerns.
Netanyahu called earlier for the union to end its strike, and said its
demands could be met within a short period of time. However, he said the
government could not expand the budget beyond the country’s means,
referring to the global economic troubles that saw S&P downgrade the
credit ratings of France and other EU members this week.
IULA says it is protesting a recent decision to increase arnona
(municipal property tax) against its wishes, as well as “populist laws
and bills that direct money away from education, student safety,
transport, the environment, welfare, culture and pensioners. Its list of
demands includes cancellation of the 16 percent value added tax on
water, and the return of NIS 500 million to a section of the education
budget reserved for local authorities.
Opposition leader Tzipi
Livni (Kadima) and Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich both backed the strike
during their respective party meetings Monday. Livni said the mayors
were staging the strike not to protect their own rights, but rather to
protect their duty to serve their residents. Yacimovich said the
government was abandoning local authorities, who “are not some trivial
sector, but rather part of the state itself.”
Yair Lapid, who is forming a political party, said the cause behind the
strike was just, but that the strike itself was not. The mayors are
correct because Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s arnona program is
“populist and damaging,” and is designed to obtain property tax
exemptions for his own Haredi constituency,” Lapid said. But he added
that the strike would cost the economy NIS 2.3 billion each day, and
urged the IULA to give Netanyahu a chance to meet their demands.
union said special institutions for disabled children would operate as
usual on Tuesday, following criticism from Welfare and Social Services
Minister Moshe Kahlon over their inclusion in the first day of the
strike. An estimated 146,000 children with disabilities were stranded at
home because of the strike on Monday.
“While I support the
freedom for workers to take strike action, children with disabilities
should not be part of this game,” said Kahlon, who was speaking at a
press conference in Jerusalem showcasing the various programs and
treatments his ministry provides for the country’s poorest sectors.