Eini, Treasury officials to meet in effort to avert strike

Steinitz says gov't is making big effort to halt "completely unnecessary strike," is prepared to raise minimum wage for contract workers.

Ofer Eini 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Histadrut)
Ofer Eini 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Histadrut)
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini and Finance Ministry Budgets Director Gal Hershkovitz were set to meet late Saturday night in an effort to avert the general strike declared by Eini for Monday morning. Eini and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz met on Friday afternoon, but failed to come to find a resolution over the latter’s demands on the employment status of contract workers.
The strike is scheduled to begin Monday at 6:00 A.M., and will cover airports, seaports, local authorities, government offices and other areas of the public sector. Full details of the strike will be published Sunday, the Histadrut labor federation said.
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Steinitz told Channel 2’s “Meet the Press” Saturday evening that the government was making a big effort to halt what he called “a completely unnecessary strike.” He said he and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were ready to raise the minimum wage for contract workers and to strengthen protection of their rights, but added that they would not do anything that could harm the economy.
 “We are ready to take the models of advanced welfare states like Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. In Sweden cleaning and guard work is done by contract workers, but in Sweden they also protect the workers’ rights at all costs,” Steinitz said. However, he added that cleaning and security companies service the public sector in every OECD member country, without exception.
Eini declared the strike last Thursday, saying: “A strike is the last option, but we had no choice after the Treasury announced yesterday that it had no intention of moving contract workers into direct employment and thereby reducing this shameful phenomenon that has taken root in Israeli society.”
The Histadrut is calling for around 100,000 cleaning and maintenance staff employed as contract workers in the public sector to be moved to direct employment.
On Friday the Manufacturers Association applied to the National Labor Court for an injunction to halt the strike. The association said a general strike would cost the economy around NIS 330 million each day, and emphasized that the damage could grow exponentially given the effects of global economic troubles on Israel.
“I’m sorry that it has reached a situation in which we need to request an injunction from the labor court to prevent this strike. I’m certain there is no need for a strike, and that we can reach a solution if all sides insist on negotiations and recognize that the status of contract and service workers must improve,” Manufacturers Association Chairman Shraga Brosh said.
Brosh called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to use the time remaining until Monday to force Treasury officials to realize that this is not the time to allow a strike.
“I am convinced that the prime minister wants to find a real solution to these problems, but it’s a shame that the Treasury officials who are so steadfast in their own opinions are blocking such a solution. The Treasury officials refuse to understand that the cost we all pay after a strike or after Knesset intervention will be tenfold of the cost of every compromise they must reach to avert the strike.”