Histadrut chair Ofer Eini at Labor Court_311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini declared Monday that a general strike would begin
Wednesday at 6 a.m., unless his labor federation and the Treasury reach an
agreement before then on the employment status of contract
National Labor Court President Nili Arad lifted an injunction on
the strike last week, saying there was no choice but to declare that
negotiations had reached a deadlock. The court first ordered the Histadrut,
Treasury and employers to conduct negotiations after allowing the labor
federation to hold a four-hour strike on November 7.
Eini, speaking at a
specially convened meeting of Histadrut officials Monday, said he understood he
would not be able to eliminate the use of contract workers entirely, but his
goal was to at least reduce it.
A strike is not the objective, Eini said,
calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz
to help achieve a solution before Wednesday morning.
Eini held separate
meetings with Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations Chairman Shraga Brosh
and Treasury budgets director Gal Hershkovitz Monday. He is scheduled to meet
Steinitz in Jerusalem mid-day Tuesday.
A strike could also be prevented
if the High Court of Justice approves a petition submitted Monday by the
Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC) to reinstate the injunction.
The court did not make an announcement Monday on when or whether it would hear
the federation’s request.Click here for a full list of the services that will be suspended as part of the general strike.
FICC attorney Shlomi Loya wrote in the petition
that the Histadrut had no right to strike over this issue, and that the labor
federation was only using the strike as a tool in its fight to strip employers
of their basic rights. The Histadrut wishes to change the entire employment
structure of the economy, preventing employers from deciding for themselves who
to employ and from being able to adapt to changing economic circumstances, he
According to Loya’s submission, the economy will lose NIS 400
million each week the strike is allowed to continue, but the long-term damage
will be even greater, as it will turn away the economy’s foreign customers, hurt
the country’s reputation, cause a credit crunch, and lead to layoffs.
response to the petition, the National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) asked
the High Court to allow it to present the “public and social perspective” on the
use of contract workers.
“The students will fight on all fronts,
including the legal front, with intention of eradicating this contemptible
practice from the heart of Israeli society once and for all. The students will
fight to the end any attempt to prevent an improvement in the status of contract
workers,” NUIS Chairman Itzik Shmuli said.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai
addressed the topic at a Shas faction meeting Monday, calling contract work
“humiliating,” and saying it “must be removed from this world.”
announced Shas would promote a bill by MK Avraham Michaeli that would forbid
government offices to hire contract workers, and called the proposal the
beginning of a solution for this “disease.”
According to Yishai, the
contract work system combines a low salary with “a lack of red lines” as to the
intensity of the work. He added: “Unfortunately, this all takes place under the
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich said at a Labor
faction meeting the strike is the “embodiment of solidarity and social justice.”
Unionized workers strike not for themselves, but for the weakest and poorest
workers, she added, calling contract work “modern slavery” and a “disgrace” that
must be stopped.
Yacimovich also called on Netanyahu to find a solution
for what she called the biggest problem in Israeli society.Joanna
Paraszczuk contributed to this report.