Local Authorities to begin strike today

Municipal employees to stop work in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv; Netanyahu says this isn't the time to "rattle" the economy.

By NADAV SHEMER,
January 15, 2012 20:42
2 minute read.
Garbage men

Garbage men 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Garbage will pile up on the streets of major cities and motorists will be free to park wherever they like starting on Monday, as municipal authorities are set to begin an open-ended strike in protest over government funding.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with representatives from the Union of Local Authorities on Sunday evening in a last-minute – and apparently fruitless – attempt to resolve the dispute, for which the Union blames the Treasury and government ministers.

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“We were not able to reach an agreement, because we demanded written agreements,” Union of Local Authorities Chairman and Ma’alot-Tarshiha Mayor Shlomo Bohbot said.

The strike will include all municipal services including parking inspectors, school buses, garbage collectors, welfare offices, security guards at educational institutions and inspections on meat and fish.

The Education Ministry has said schools and kindergartens will remain open, and they will help organize transportation with parents. Special education institutions will not be open tomorrow, the ministry said.

The Union said it is protesting a recent decision to increase the property tax (arnona) rate against the wishes of municipal authorities, as well as “populist laws and bills” that direct money away from education, student safety, transport, the environment, welfare, culture and pensioners.



Netanyahu called on local authorities to postpone the strike and save their residents considerable hardship, saying this was not the time to “rattle” the economy with a strike. He also said the government needed to continue with its responsible fiscal policy and could not spend money indiscriminately.

Netanyahu sent his director-general, Harel Locker, to meet with Union of Local Authorities representatives and look for sources of funding to make up for discounts in municipal taxes and water subsidies. It was also decided that a forum would be set up to regularly discuss issues affecting the local authorities that would include their representatives as well as the directors-general of the Interior Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry.

Unlike in previous such strikes, the three biggest cities – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be affected on Monday.

“This is not social justice, it is social damage,” Bohbot said. “The government is taking money from its citizens’ pockets in order to fund services in another pocket. We will not allow them to hurt our residents.”

The strike comes less than a week after the National Labor Court rejected the Histadrut labor federation’s request to hold a general strike over the employment status of contract workers. The Union of Local Authorities is on the state’s side on that issue, having opposed a general strike since it was first threatened by the Histadrut in October.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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