Garbage cleaned up after Jerusalem strike ends

Despite deal, many questions remain for budget and Barkat-Kahlon feud.

Garbage in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Garbage in Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
While the Jerusalem municipal strike officially ended late on Tuesday night, the budgetary issues that led to the three-day work stoppage are far from being solved.
By Wednesday morning, the huge mounds of garbage around the city – the most visible effect of the strike – were cleaned up, due to large teams of sanitation workers who worked all night.
But aside from the garbage, many questions remain.
Teachers working in afternoon programs in kindergartens and first grades have not yet received any sign that their salaries – partly frozen for the last three months – will be paid soon. The Jerusalem District Court ruled on Tuesday afternoon that Mayor Nir Barkat does not have the right to shut subsidized after-school programs and demanded he reopen them immediately or be held in contempt of court.
Several hundred municipality sanitation workers who were set to be dismissed for lack of budgeted funds have not yet heard if they will keep their jobs. And welfare services in the capital are still undermanned – one of Barkat’s major demands in his request for additional Treasury funds.
Meanwhile, the city council coalition was slimmed by three members on Tuesday when the Yerushalmim Party joined the opposition. The disconnect between Barkat and Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, who is also president of the planning and construction committee, is still far from being repaired. Turgeman still fumes at the harm done to residents – especially young children – during the strike, which he says was not coordinated with him.
As for the more tangible results of the strike – they are, for the moment, nonexistent. Barkat was invited by Netanyahu to attend the cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, with a vague promise by Netanyahu to address the issue of the special budgets necessary for the city. But the prime minister didn’t make any guarantees that Barkat’s demands would be met.
Currently, the gap between what Barkat requested and what Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is willing to give about NIS 329 million, and Kahlon is holding strong in his opposition to meet Barkat’s demands.
Shai Babad, director-general of the Finance Ministry, met on Monday with a delegation of Barkat’s partners in the strike, including the Jerusalem’s Parents Association, representatives of community centers and after-school programs and representatives of the teachers’ organization. Babad echoed Kahlon’s intention to not boost the budget to meet Barkat’s demands: “An addition of 5% to the existing budget is the maximum we offer,” he said A spokesman for the Jerusalem Municipality confirmed that Barkat appreciated Netanyahu’s decision to take responsibility for the situation and offered his help to find a solution. Barkat also expressed hope that with Netanyahu’s interference, the crisis will be solved in a way that will “lead to the consolidation and development of Jerusalem.”