Histadrut, Treasury to meet before general strike

In protest of the employment status of contract workers, general strike is set to begin; Yishai: Contract work is "humiliating."

February 7, 2012 06:10
3 minute read.
Histadrut chair Ofer Eini at Labor Court

Histadrut chair Ofer Eini at Labor Court_311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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After talks ended without progress Monday night, Histadrut labor federation Chairman Ofer Eini will meet with Treasury officials at noon on Tuesday to try and avoid a strike over the status of contract workers, Israel Radio reported.

Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini declared Monday that a general strike would begin Wednesday at 6 a.m., unless his labor federation and the Treasury reach an agreement before then on the employment status of contract workers.

National Labor Court President Nili Arad lifted an injunction on the strike last week, saying there was no choice but to declare that negotiations had reached a deadlock. The court first ordered the Histadrut, Treasury and employers to conduct negotiations after allowing the labor federation to hold a four-hour strike on November 7.

Speaking at a specially convened meeting of Histadrut officials Monday, Eini said he understood he would not be able to eliminate the use of contract workers entirely, but his goal was to at least reduce it.

A strike is not the objective, Eini said, calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to help achieve a solution before Wednesday morning.

Eini held separate meetings with Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations Chairman Shraga Brosh and Treasury budgets director Gal Hershkovitz Monday. He is scheduled to meet Steinitz in Jerusalem mid-day Tuesday.

A strike could also be prevented if the High Court of Justice approves a petition submitted Monday by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC) to reinstate the injunction. The court did not make an announcement Monday on when or whether it would hear the federation’s request.

Click here for a full list of the services that will be suspended as part of the general strike.

FICC attorney Shlomi Loya wrote in the petition that the Histadrut had no right to strike over this issue, and that the labor federation was only using the strike as a tool in its fight to strip employers of their basic rights. The Histadrut wishes to change the entire employment structure of the economy, preventing employers from deciding for themselves who to employ and from being able to adapt to changing economic circumstances, he wrote.

According to Loya’s submission, the economy will lose NIS 400 million each week the strike is allowed to continue, but the long-term damage will be even greater, as it will turn away the economy’s foreign customers, hurt the country’s reputation, cause a credit crunch, and lead to layoffs.

In response to the petition, the National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) asked the High Court to allow it to present the “public and social perspective” on the use of contract workers.

“The students will fight on all fronts, including the legal front, with intention of eradicating this contemptible practice from the heart of Israeli society once and for all. The students will fight to the end any attempt to prevent an improvement in the status of contract workers,” NUIS Chairman Itzik Shmuli said.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai addressed the topic at a Shas faction meeting Monday, calling contract work “humiliating,” and saying it “must be removed from this world.”

He also announced Shas would promote a bill by MK Avraham Michaeli that would forbid government offices to hire contract workers, and called the proposal the beginning of a solution for this “disease.”

According to Yishai, the contract work system combines a low salary with “a lack of red lines” as to the intensity of the work. He added: “Unfortunately, this all takes place under the government’s sponsorship.”

Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said at a Labor faction meeting the strike is the “embodiment of solidarity and social justice.” Unionized workers strike not for themselves, but for the weakest and poorest workers, she added, calling contract work “modern slavery” and a “disgrace” that must be stopped.

Yacimovich also called on Netanyahu to find a solution for what she called the biggest problem in Israeli society.

Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.

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