Treasury, Histadrut negotiate past deadlines

Sides locked in talks to end general strike that has paralyzed Israel's economy; update on talks expected within hours.

By NADAV SHEMER
February 9, 2012 05:10
1 minute read.
Strike shuts down Ben Gurion Airport (file)

Strike at Ben Gurion Airport 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

For the third time Wednesday night, the Treasury and the Histadrut Labor Federation extended a deadline for the conclusion of negotiations. The sides are now scheduled to announce an update on the talks within the coming hours.

Judge Nili Arad, president of the National Labor Court, ordered Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini to continue their talks. They had originally been asked to notify her on the outcome of negotiations by 1 a.m, but extended that deadline multiple times.

Following the notification, the National Labor Court is expected to make a ruling regarding whether the general strike can continue and if so, in what format.

Earlier, the High Court of Justice refused on Tuesday to intervene in the Labor Court’s decision that the strike could go ahead. The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce had petitioned the High Court, arguing that the strike would cause extensive damage to the economy and that it was not legitimate because its aim was to change employment practices, not protect workers’ rights.

In rejecting the petition, the High Court ordered the parties to attend a National Labor Court hearing for further discussion.

The open-ended general strike began on Wednesday at 6 a.m., after all-night negotiations between Eini and Steinitz ended without an agreement on the employment status of contract workers, who do not receive tenure or benefits.

Eini is asking to allow for the partial transfer of cleaning workers to direct employment, transfer of contract workers whose jobs mirror directly employed workers to direct employment, and granting full workers rights to those who remain as contract workers.

According to a Finance Ministry statement, Steinitz offered to provide hundreds of millions of shekels to improve the work conditions of contract workers. The statement added that the Histadrut was insisting on an “unnecessary strike” that would cost the economy billions of shekels.

Banks, government ministries and railway depots were left shuttered on Wednesday, and air traffic was grounded at Ben-Gurion Airport until the early afternoon.

Wednesday was a normal work day for contract workers, who are not part of the Histadrut.

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