Work dispute declared in public sector

Could lead to general strike against government policies.

strike sign 88 (photo credit: )
strike sign 88
(photo credit: )
The Histadrut labor federation on Tuesday declared a work dispute in the public sector which could lead to a general strike in protest against government policies set out for 2006. The workers' committees of the civil service, agriculture, construction, and communications departments, local authorities, religious councils, government corporations, and national institutions, as well as the postal authority, the ports authority and other statutory bodies declared a work dispute encompassing hundreds of thousands of workers. The Histadrut can declare a general strike if after a two-week period no progress in negotiations has been reached. The potential labor sanctions will affect most public services such as trains, the oil refineries, TV and radio broadcasts, activities at the ports and hospitals and the issuing of passports. "The government is making decisions over significant structural and organizational changes in the country's economy such as the privatization processes, without involving the labor federation. This unilateral conduct infringes basic employees' rights to carry on negotiations," the Histadrut said in a statement. There is great dissatisfaction over the fact that no new collective labor agreements have been signed and about the cabinet's decision to make cuts in state-financed pensions. The Histadrut had agreed to the former finance minister's demand to lower public-sector wages and now it calls for 'payback' time for the workers. Separately, the worker's union of Bank Leumi has launched an international campaign aimed at putting pressure on management and the government to come to an agreement over preserving the employees' rights ahead of the pending privatization. The union also will publish a warning to investors in the form of a banner on the Websites of Bloomberg, The Financial Times, and Barron's. The union said in a statement that the warning will emphasize that "anyone who buys Bank Leumi without first coming to an agreement with the employees will waste his money. The employees will prevent him from entering the bank or even parking his car in the bank's parking lot." On Tuesday, 150 Bank Leumi branches were closed from 11 a.m. The bank's headquarters, computer services, and call centers staff will be on strike Wednesday until 11 a.m. Bank Leumi employees are calling for the collective contract to be preserved for five to seven years after the bank is privatized. They also are demanding benefits under the privatization, including an option on 6 percent of the bank's shares that they claim have been promised to them.