Histadrut threatens public-sector strike

Labor Federation declares work dispute in public sector, threatens general strike in two weeks unless dispute over wages is settled.

gas station strike 311 (photo credit: Rami Zringer)
gas station strike 311
(photo credit: Rami Zringer)
The Histadrut Labor Federation declared a work dispute in the public sector on Thursday and threatened a general strike in two weeks unless a dispute over wages is settled.
“The Histadrut has declared a work dispute because talks with the Finance Ministry over a wage agreement for public servants came to a halt,” Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said. “We very much hope that in the coming days we will enter into intensive negotiations that will lead to an agreement to avert a general strike.”
Following the announcement of a work dispute, the Histadrut can by law declare a general strike if after a two-week period no progress in negotiations is reached.
The potential labor sanctions would encompasses all government ministries, local authorities (including garbage collection), government companies, ports, trains, the Postal Authority, the National Insurance Institute, the Israel Lands Administration and university administrations.
In negotiations with Wage Supervisor Ilan Levin, Histadrut Trade Union Division chairman Avi Nissenkorn demanded a 3.5 percent pay raise for about 750,000 public servants. It would apply for three years – 2009, 2010 and 2011 – and constitute a cumulative wage hike of 10.5%. The Finance Ministry has agreed to consider a salary increase of 0.5% for each year, a cumulative 1.5% over three years.
“The Histadrut’s wage-hike demand of 10.5% would inflate the government’s salary expenses by NIS 10 billion a year paid out of the state budget,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement. “The annual allowance for an increase in the state budget is between NIS 6b. to NIS 7b. for the coming years.
“Therefore, what this means is that not only would the government have to use the entire yearly budget increase to cope with a wage hike in the public sector, but it would also have to find additional sources to finance the union’s demand, at the expense of cutting other spending in areas such as education, health, welfare, security and infrastructure.”
Salaries in the public sector over the past decade have increased 26.5% in nominal terms and by 4% in real terms, which represents an average rise of 0.4% per year, the Finance Ministry said. In the business sector, wages in real terms rose by 3% over the same period, which is an average increase of 0.3% a year, it said.
Teams headed by Levin and Nissenkorn are expected resume negotiations next week.