Labor Court gives gov't another week to pay workers

Histadrut Labor Federation forbidden to call strike during extension period.

National Labor Court Judge Steve Adler on Thursday night allotted the state another week to find a solution to the unpaid salaries of municipal workers, and again forbade the Histadrut Labor Federation to call a strike during the extension period. The National Labor Court has taken on the role of mediator between the Histadrut and the government in the local authorities debacle, thereby averting resumption of a general strike in the public sector. "We are in favor of the court's decision and we praise the court's understanding of the depth and complexities of the problems of this case," the Finance Ministry said in response to the ruling. The National Labor Court late Thursday formulated a clear time plan mapping out actions and responsibilities of the Interior and Finance Ministries to assist the local authorities in paying municipal workers and putting pension payments into order. The progress of every step in the ruling will need to be reported to the court on specified dates starting from Sunday. The court will convene the next hearing on December 15, when representatives of the Interior Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut will issue progress reports. Representatives of the two ministries and the Histadrut appeared at the court to solve the issue of unpaid salaries at dozens of local authorities, after the court halted last week's public sector strike and gave the ministries seven days to present their solutions. "Although the Interior Ministry claims that NIS 40 million had been transferred to local authorities on Thursday, not one of the municipal workers has been paid," the Histadrut said. "We gave the ministries a week but salaries have not been paid." Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini last week demanded, as a condition to end the strike, that the government immediately transfer full salaries to all unpaid local authority workers and that all the employers' contribution to pension funds be allocated. In addition, the Histadrut demanded that council heads, who held back wages be held personally and criminally responsible, in a bid to guarantee that such cases did not repeat. The Finance Ministry presented the court with information on wage non-payments at 41 local authorities with total debts of NIS 135m. Of the 41 local authorities, 29 will be provided with immediate payment solutions, while financial solutions for the other 12 local authorities, which have been classified as problematic, would need to await inspections. "On Thursday, the ministry transferred NIS 40m. to the Interior Ministry and the rest is expected to be transferred over the next few days," the Finance Ministry said ahead of the court's ruling. "Providing solutions for the authorities' debts to the workers' pension funds cannot be immediate as the issue is far more complex and requires the collection of data and legal information of the last couple of years." According Thursday's court ruling, the Interior Minister must collect all relevant data on debts to the workers' pension funds within the next 21 days to forge a payment agreement.