Income tax offices to strike

Workers demand higher pay, more new hires to handle work load.

Income Tax Authority workers will strike at all income tax offices across the country starting Monday, as negotiations with the Finance Ministry over the demand for additional pay and freedom to hire more workers have reached a dead end, the workers announced on Wendesay. "We have no other choice but show the Finance Ministry that we will fight for our future," said Nachum Friedlov, chairman of the income tax division worker's committee at the Israel Tax Authority. "If we don't take unionized actions, no one will do it for us." The income tax division of the Israel Tax Authority, with the full support of the Histadrut Labor Federation the worker's committee, voted on Wednesday in favor of a full strike action in protest against the failure of two years of negotiations with the Finance Ministry. The workers are demanding financial compensation for additional work loads they have been tasked with since 2006, such as the implementation of compensation schemes for war damages and, more recently, the implementation of the negative income tax law. The workers have also been calling for the hiring of more workers to cope with these additional work loads and responsibilities. "We have done everything in our ability not to get to the situation of a strike. But we can not remain silent any longer," said Ariel Yaakovi, chairman of the government worker's committee at the Histadrut Labor Federation. "Time has come for the Finance Ministry to take responsibility and come to an agreement with us." Leaving room for a last-minute reprieve, he added, "Over the next 48 hours we will do everything to forge an agreement for income tax workers." The Finance Ministry said in response that it was disappointed to hear that Income Tax Authority workers had decided "to take a ride on the backs of negative tax income beneficiaries and take advantage of the sensitive situation of the economy during this period in order to improve their salaries." "Salary data for government services positions show," the ministry said in an official statement, "that the average salaries of tax authority workers are 25 percent higher in comparison with average salaries in the rest of government services - NIS 12,000 gross monthly salary for tax authority workers versus NIS 9,000 gross monthly salary for all other government offices. Furthermore, tax authority workers' salaries rose by 20% between the years 2000 and 2007, compared with a salary increase of 10% for all other government employees during the same period."