(photo credit: Associated Press)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has called a high-level meeting at his Jerusalem residence on Wednesday morning in an attempt to prevent a general strike that the Histadrut Labor Federation is threatening to initiate to protest price increases on staples such as bread, water and fuel.
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Netanyahu held consultations on the matter Tuesday night.
Wednesday’s meeting will be attended by Shraga Brosh, head of the Manufacturers Association; Shlomo Buhbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities; Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini; Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz; and Eyal Gabai, directorgeneral of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu hopes to reach an agreement for a package under which the prices of water, fuel and bread would be reduced, the cuts being funded by a reduction in the budgets of government ministries.
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, speaking at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday night, warned against breaking the constraints of the state budget.
“This is not the time to play with the budget, just a month and a half after it was approved,” Fischer said. “We must act responsibly.”
The central committee of the Histadrut is likely to call a work dispute over the price hikes on Thursday, allowing it to move ahead with plans to launch a fullscale general strike within the next two weeks, a statement released by the organization said on Tuesday. These sentiments were echoed by the Manufacturers Association and the Union of Local Authorities, as well as the National Students Union.
The labor action could paralyze the country.
“The Histadrut will be operating on two levels – the private and the public sector.
We will declare a labor dispute and there will also be protests in the public sphere,” said Eini, who plans to hold emergency meetings on Wednesday with both Brosh and Buhbut to decide on a course of further action.
“I urge the prime minister to go back and find an easier way to solve this,” added Eini, who described the united front between the three groups as historic. He also lauded the decision of the students to join the struggle.
In a statement issued Tuesday, a students union official said the body would join the action against price increases because they increase hardships faced by young people.
The cost of fuel has risen by roughly 13% in recent months, with bread up by 10% and water up by 134%.
On Monday, the Bank of Israel announced it expected a continued rise in housing prices.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) voiced concern over the future of Netanyahu’s government if the price rises were not altered.
“The prices of gas are unreasonable and incorrect,” Katz said at a Likud rally in Ariel. “After two years of this government we must re-evaluate the situation and see what needs to be fixed.”Gil Hoffman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.