Lapid Eini press conference 370.
(photo credit: Finance Ministry spokesman)
Histadrut Labor Federation chairman Ofer Eini announced Tuesday that he will
step down on February 1, 2014, after eight years in the role.
this period, the Histadrut has reached unprecedented heights in terms of its
influence on the economy, Israeli society, the working public and pensioners,
and has become very popular among the public,” Eini told Histadrut leaders
He recommended Avi Nissankoren, chairman of the
Histadrut’s Trade Union division, to replace him. He added that he had waited to
step down until he was sure Nissankoren was ready to succeed him.
replaces Eini will have a significant impact on Israel’s economy. This year
alone, the 800,000-member organization has resorted to calling labor disputes or
strikes over such issues as nurses’ working conditions, port reforms, the
government’s open skies agreement and layoffs at pharmaceutical giant Teva. It
has the power to call strikes that can shut down a wide range of institutions,
such as schools, the postal service and even airports.
plan might not be foolproof, however. Labor MK Eitan Cabel, who challenged him
in the last union election, said he would try to take his mantel. If Nissankoren
fails to win the support of the Histadrut leadership, the organization will be forced to hold a general election.
Eini said the reason for stepping down
after 30 years in the Histadrut was a sense that he was no longer able to give
100 percent to the job. Yet he touted his accomplishments, noting that the books
were balanced and strides had been made in workers rights by increasing the
minimum wage, signing an all-encompassing pension agreement and increasing union
“We’re the only workers’ union in the world where the
membership is growing,” he said at the Histadrut’s Tel Aviv
Although Eini had thrown his political weight behind MK Isaac
Herzog in his quest to unseat Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, Yacimovich
praised his record, calling him a “crucial” axis in the struggle for decent
wages. His impending resignation could mute the effect of his support for Herzog
in the November 21 primary.
For his part, Herzog said the Histadrut had
grown stronger than ever under Eini.
“He brought the Histadrut a step
forward and returned it to being a meaningful power and contributor to the
economy,” the MK said.
Eini called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to work with, and not against, the
“The best way is to join hands together. Together is not a
vulgar word,” he said.
In a phone call, Netanyahu thanked Eini for
helping resolve disputes with the government and said he expected continued
cooperation from the Histadrut in the future.
But not everyone had words
of praise for Eini or for the role of the Histadrut under his
“Eini turned the Histadrut from an organization with the
mission of protecting workers and their rights to a body with a
business-interest agenda busy with protectionism and deals,” said Meretz leader
Gal-On added that his departure signalled an opportunity
to reclaim the organization for all Israeli workers, not just those who are
Lapid said his numerous fights with Eini had made them
friends. Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett added that although they
often disagreed because Eini’s priority was the benefit of workers, the
Histadrut chairman had also exhibited a responsible attitude toward the rest of
“Concern for workers is a significant part of my job as
economy minister,” Bennett said, “and I believe we will continue to lead ahead,
together with the Histadrut, which is an important and central organization.”