National Labor Court, general strike_311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A general strike began Monday at 6 a.m. after the National Labor
Court failed to announce a decision on a petition for an injunction. The court was still deliberating on the matter at the time commencement of the strike.
Most of the public sector was set to shut down for an indefinite
period under the strike, including airports, seaports, mass transportation,
local authorities, government offices, hospitals and universities.
Yacimovich: Contract workers' strike is
Editorial: Greek lessons
court convened late Sunday night after a preliminary hearing that National Labor
Court President Nili Arad held with the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut ended
without any positive results. According to the Finance Ministry, Histadrut
chairman Ofer Eini rejected Arad’s offer of several weeks of negotiations under
the auspices of the court, while the Finance Ministry had accepted
The Finance Ministry, Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce,
Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations and Union of Local Authorities all
sought injunctions against the strike, which the Histadrut labor federation
declared late last week.
Eini said the strike would go ahead unless
overturned by the court, after a pre-hearing meeting with Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz ended without resolution.
The Histadrut said in a statement
after the meeting that it would “not continue to conduct negotiations unless the
finance minister changed his stance” on the employment status of contract
The Histadrut wants more than 100,000 cleaners, guards and
maintenance staff servicing the public sector as contract workers to be moved
into direct employment. Steinitz and Finance Ministry officials say they support
improving the salaries and work conditions of contract workers, but the
Histadrut says this is not enough.
The strike would cost the economy around NIS 400 million a day, Shraga Brosh, president of the
Manufacturers Association and chairman of the Federation of Israeli Economic
Organizations, told Channel 2 News.
Eini said at a press conference
Sunday afternoon that the strike was going ahead “because we have no other
“The state has turned into the biggest criminal and is fleeing
from the law which it introduced,” he said.
Responding to comments made
by Steinitz the previous day that he was ready to adopt the models of
advanced-welfare states like Sweden, Eini said: “Mr.
Finance Minister, I
am ready for us to be the same as Sweden, but in full... In Sweden only 1.5
percent of the employed are contract workers. Here is it is
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning pleaded for the
Histadrut to cancel the strike, and said it was possible to find a “just and
responsible solution” to the issue.
“Just – because we are all aware of
the genuine plight of the contract workers. Responsible – because we must bring
a solution that will not harm the Israeli economy, at a time that we are
witnessing the upheaval of world markets,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of
the weekly cabinet meeting.
“I believe that there is no need to disrupt
Israelis’ lives or to cause heavy damage to the Israeli economy. My government
and the Histadrut see eye-to-eye on the good of Israel’s workers. This is not
mere talk. We can attest to the many steps that we have carried out – Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz and Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini, with my backing – to
improve workers’ salaries,” the prime minister said.
In their request to
the court for injunctions, Chambers of Commerce attorney Shlomi Loya argued that
the Histadrut was using the strike as a “weapon to get around the democratic
structure, in order to achieve a decision by means of the severest kind of
pressure there is.”
Although the Histadrut had said the strike aimed to
protect the rights of contract workers, it wanted to “make a revolution and
fundamentally change the employment structure in Israel so that all workers will
be employed directly by their employers,” Loya said.
At least one Likud
cabinet member backed the Histadrut, with Welfare and Social Services Minister
Moshe Kahlon attacking Steinitz over the issue at a party meeting on Sunday
morning, Channel 2 reported.
Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich
also expressed support for the Histadrut, saying: “The struggle for the rights
of contract workers is the most important facing Israeli society.”