Strike possible over unpaid IMI wages

Peretz: Olmert not only withholding wages, he won't take responsibility.

amir peretz 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
amir peretz 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sunday was the deadline set by Histadrut Chairman Amir Peretz for Israel Military Industries to cough up employees' wages from September. Peretz on Thursday threatened a strike if the wages were not forthcoming by Sunday.
His ultimatum came in a telephone conversation with Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert.
"The finance minister has been acting in an inappropriate manner. Not only does his office withhold the wages, he also has not taken responsibility for this situation and has systematically moved away from tackling the issue," Peretz said.
IMI's 3000 employees have not received their September salaries, which were due more than two weeks ago. For months, their salaries have been paid late.
Peretz added that on the issue of withholding wages, Olmert has been worse than his predecessor, Binyamin Netanyahu.
"During Netanyahu's tenure, we also saw non-payment of workers' salaries, but then it was limited to non-governmental public bodies, such as municipalities," Peretz said.
In recent weeks, the privatization of IMI has come to a halt as negotiations among the Finance Ministry, IMI management and the union have ended in a deadlock.
Union head Yitzhak Yehuda has said that talks over the recovery plan will not restart until the wages were paid.
Last week, Peretz and Histadrut trade union division head Ofer Eini said that the Finance Ministry was withholding salaries to pressure IMI workers to withdraw their opposition to privatization and the recovery plan formulated by management.
The ministry representatives had said they would not approve allocations to IMI for salary payments until proper progress is made to implement the recovery plan.
The state plans to sell its 100 percent holding in one block to a single private investor or group of investors. However, the privatization excludes a number of plants and divisions, including Givon and Maltam, which Rafael is buying. In addition, Sammy Katsav's firm IWI has an option to buy the Keshet plant as part of its purchase of the Magen small arms and ammunition plant in February, while the Yitzhak factory will also be sold separately.