Amid strike, lab workers accuse gov’t of ‘looting the public coffers’

"Admittedly, they are not as important as the Breslov hassidim but they are the ones who are at the forefront of the struggle against coronavirus," the Yisrael Beytenu wrote.

Israeli army Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a IDF lab in central Israel on July 15, 2020. (photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
Israeli army Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus in a IDF lab in central Israel on July 15, 2020.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)
The lab workers’ strike heated up on Sunday when the Israel Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists and Laboratory Workers said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Israel Katz and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were “directly responsible for looting the public coffers,” its chairwoman, Esther Admon, wrote in a letter to staff.
Some 2,000 lab workers from public hospitals and Clalit Health Services went on strike Sunday morning after negotiations between the country’s public labs and the Finance Ministry broke down last week.
The lab workers had announced their intention to strike two weeks ago.
The workers are still carrying out coronavirus testing for those who are hospitalized. However, they are only reporting on coronavirus tests that are positive. They are also carrying out life-saving tests in emergency and trauma rooms.
Testing is not being done at outpatient clinics or for ambulatory surgeries.
On Sunday, Admon said she wrote a letter to the Finance Ministry over the weekend, calling on them to come back to the negotiating table out of responsibility to the public.
“I did not receive an answer all weekend,” but on Sunday, the lab workers were called back to the table, “probably due to media” attention the issue received, she said.
The Finance Ministry is “disconnected, sending unrealistic responses to the media that we have been offered proper proposals, and it is a pity that we did not respond positively,” Admon said
“If we do not go to war, we will continue to risk human lives every day,” she added.

Letter from Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein demanding that the lab workers' strike be brought up at Sunday's coronavirus cabinet meeting, August 30, 2020 (Credit: Screenshot)Letter from Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein demanding that the lab workers' strike be brought up at Sunday's coronavirus cabinet meeting, August 30, 2020 (Credit: Screenshot)
The Finance Ministry on Sunday said in a statement: “Generous offers were made but rejected. We regret that despite the agreement signed with the lab workers and the significant raises we gave them for processing coronavirus tests, the association is choosing to take advantage of the situation and go on strike at a time that is very sensitive, both in terms of economics and in terms of public health. We are willing to go back to the negotiating table at any time and call on the Association of Biochemists, Microbiologists and Laboratory Workers to join the fight.”
The average salary of senior lab workers is higher than what the workers say it is, NIS 18,121 a month, the Finance Ministry said in a report, according to N12. Junior workers make an average of NIS 11,500, according to the report.
On Sunday morning, Yisrael Beytenu Party chairman Avigdor Liberman, in a letter to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, demanded that the lab workers’ strike be raised at Sunday’s coronavirus cabinet meeting to resolve the crisis.
“The citizens of Israel woke up today to bad news,” he wrote. “The laboratory workers’ strike comes at a time when we are facing one of the most serious health crises we have known. The strike will affect not only those infected with coronavirus but also other patients with serious illnesses and those at increased risk of becoming ill.”
Liberman called on Edelstein, “the minister in charge,” to raise the issue at Sunday’s coronavirus cabinet meeting to resolve the crisis.
“The demands of the lab workers are not unreasonable, NIS 51 per hour instead of NIS 31. I am sure there is the money,” he wrote. “Admittedly, they are not as important as the Breslov Hassidim, but they are the ones who are at the forefront of the struggle against coronavirus. And regardless, their demands are justified.”

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.