Strike canceled after emergency meeting with PM

Deal reached with local authorities after late-night meeting; government grants municipalities with NIS 2.75 million.

municipality protest 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
municipality protest 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Hours before a nationwide local authorities strike was set to paralyze the country, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Ministesr Yuval Steinitz and Interior Minister Eli Yishai succeeded in negotiating a deal with the heads of local authorities early Sunday morning.
Netanyahu summoned Steinitz, Yishai and the heads of local authorities to a late-night meeting Saturday night, which lasted nearly five hours. The government agreed to grant the local authorities with NIS 2.75 million in 2011, and an NIS 2.8 million in 2012. In addition, a committee will provide recommendations within 45 days on how to coordinate between water companies and local authorities.
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The meeting followed calls by Yishai and Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog to try to bridge gaps between the parties before employees of local authorities launched an open-ended strike on Sunday if a deal was not reached between the workers’ union and the government.
The Union of Local Authorities had demanded a reduction in water prices and a budget increase of NIS 500 million for schools and NIS 600m. for local authorities. These funds have been cut from the national budget in recent years, and the union says the budget shortfalls have made it exceedingly difficult to carry out their operations.
At the moment, there are 22 local authorities in Israel that the union says are having serious problems with workers’ salaries.
Had the strike gone through, the city halls of all participating cities would be closed and resident help lines will not be manned. Sanitation services will not operate.
City welfare services would not have been available and centers for senior citizens would have been closed. In addition, parking inspectors wouldn't have given out tickets, .
Herzog had called on Netanyahu and Steinitz to make every effort to prevent the potential strike.
“A culture exists in Israel that ignores the threat of a strike right up until the last minute, and this is a mistake,” said Herzog in a statement. “I know the local authorities cannot afford to pay their share of the social services, and this is a complex problem affecting not only the poorer population but also middle-class communities.
“The budget that passed last week allows the government to respond to the distress call of the local government,” Herzog added. “The prime minister and finance minister must therefore come to their senses quickly and find a solution that will avert this crisis.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.