Treasury blackout puts spotlight on Israel Electric

IEC denies widespread rumors that hour-long power outage at Finance Ministry was intentional act of sabotage.

Israel Electric Company denied widespread rumors Tuesday that an hour-long power outage at the Finance Ministry was an intentional act of sabotage in response to the ministry's demands to immediately bring all excessive wages within the legal range. "As far as I know, there was a malfunction within the Treasury's private system, not on a line controlled by the Electric Company," said Israel Electric spokeswoman Yael Ne'eman, who compared the situation to a domestic fuse busting. Miko Tsarfati, head of the workers committee at Israel Electric, also denied any wrongdoing - for the most part. "I gave an instruction not to help them repair the malfunction, that is true. But the outage was not done intentionally on our part," he said. The Finance Ministry would not comment on the power outages. Regarding the Treasury's demands to cancel excessive wages, Tsarfati said Israel Electric employees would gather Wednesday, and vote on what course of action to take by the late afternoon. The Finance Ministry confirmed that "Wage Supervisor [Eli Cohen's] demand related to the wage excesses at the [Israel] Electric Company stands as it is," since it was made public Monday. With Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson's backing, Cohen ordered Israel Electric to make only legal wage and pension payments to employees beginning this month, and return those illegal bonuses given since January 2004 to the company's coffers. The order would save about NIS 80 million annually, the ministry said, but added that total savings could reach NIS 500m. or "even more." Among the measures, Cohen instructed the company to add five years to the time required to receive a seniority bonus and to reduce the amount of the bonus itself, as well as a series of other extras given to long-time employees or for overtime hours. Furthermore, pension promotions must be given only every three years, as in the past, and not every two years, as the company currently does. The company also must bring an end to irregularities in how vehicle use is refunded and overtime hours calculated, Cohen said.