For the first time since 1976, a collective labor agreement for the cleaning and maintenance sector was signed Tuesday, which stipulates that the minimum wage in the industry will be 20 percent higher than the national minimum wage. The agreement was signed between the Histadrut Labor Federation and the Cleaning and Maintenance Association. It will come into effect and receive legal status within the next six months, following approval by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. "This is a breakthrough of historical importance," said Dror Atria, chairman of the Cleaning and Maintenance Association, which is part of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce. "The agreement stipulates clear and ethical guidelines for professional activity of operations in the sector. "In order to rectify and compensate for the low salaries earned by workers in the sector over many years and to give an incentive for working in the sector, we have decided to raise wages by 20 percent." Under the terms of the agreement, a table will be included that sets the minimum hourly wage in the industry, which will be NIS 25 instead of the NIS 20.70 hourly wage paid today. In accordance with the new requirements, a company that publishes a tender for cleaning services will be obliged to comply with the table, so that competition between employers in the sector will not come at the expense of employees. The wage increase of 20% will be implemented gradually over a period of two years once the agreement attains legal status: 5% immediately and an additional 5% every six months. Cleaning employees hired in the two years following the signing of the ordinance will be eligible for an immediate 20% pay hike. In addition, cleaners working in a job a minimum of six months will also be eligible for a comprehensive pension instead of a basic pension. Employer contributions will increase gradually to reach 17.5% over a period of six years. Other benefits and rights determined under the new agreement include holiday vouchers for Pessah and Rosh Hashana, extra pay for work on holidays and transportation for employees who work when public transportation is unavailable.