Social workers make progress, but strike to continue

Finance Ministry agrees to most of demands, but strike to go on until final agreement signed; local councils set to join social workers.

By JONAH MANDEL, JPOST.COM STAFF
March 15, 2011 03:51
2 minute read.
Social workers protest in the North

Social workers protest in the North 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Negotiations between social workers and representatives of the Finance Ministry late Monday night ended after significant progress was made regarding the majority of issues in dispute.

The Finance Ministry agreed to social workers' demands for better working conditions and an increase in wages for the 10,000 of them employed directly by the state and local authorities, including for the 5,000 employed by various state-supported NGOs.

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The professional staffs are expected to gather Tuesday to discuss the issue, however the an end to the strike was not declared, and it was expected to continue until a final agreement is signed.

Earlier Monday, the Union of Local Authorities threatened to hold a one-day strike Tuesday in solidarity with the social workers.

The talks began at the Histadrut labor federation headquarters in Tel Aviv on Monday evening, but were interrupted by a few dozen social workers who held a spontaneous and noisy protest – first outside the building, but eventually on the fifth floor, where the meeting was to take place.

According to Tamar Shtekler, who was among the protesters, Social Workers Union chairman Itzik Perry exited the room and told them that he “heard the voices” of protest and that “the talks were complex and difficult.” Eventually, the protesters were asked to move to enable Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen to enter the room so the negotiations could begin.

Due to the demonstration, however, the talks were eventually relocated to the Finance Ministry offices in Tel Aviv, attended also by Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, Histadrut Trade Union Department head Avi Nissenkorn, Finance Ministry wage director Ilan Levin and Welfare and Social Services Ministry Director-General Nachum Itzkovitz.



In support of the social workers, the Union of Local Authorities plans to hold a one-day warning strike on Tuesday. Except for educational institutions and 15 big cities, all municipal services – such as trash removal and public reception – will be put on hold.

Union chairman Shlomo Buhbut said last week that his group was forced to join the strike since “social work is at the heart of the services we provide our residents,” and the municipalities were buckling under the pressure from residents who needed social services and were not receiving them due to the strike.

Not all municipalities will take part in the strike, however. The Forum of 15, which unites 15 large cities – including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Netanya, Ra’anana and Herzliya – announced on Monday that it would not be joining the strike.

A spokesman for the forum explained that since it believed the dispute would end in agreement in the next few days, it saw no need to hold a strike.

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