Histadrut threatens general strike at month's end

Bill to limit strikes advances

Money [illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
Money [illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Histadrut labor federation said Saturday night it would call a general strike on Tuesday, which would open the door to a general strike two weeks later, even as a bill to limit its capability to strike advanced in the Knesset.
The Histadrut said the dispute is over the “shameful” minimum wage, the “alarming” expansion of contract workers – specifically in education – and the “contempt of the state” toward extending the rights of disabled state workers.
“All attempts to negotiate with the government have failed,” said Histadrut chairman Avi Nissankoren.
Hadash MK Dov Henin, who has proposed a bill to raise the minimum wage to NIS 30 an hour from the current NIS 24, praised the move, saying achieving a significant increase would require turning up the pressure on the Knesset and public.
The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, a business lobby, said a strike over the minimum wage would be “excessive” and demanded that business representatives be present at discussions over changing it.
“It’s very desirable that any conclusion reached will come through a law in an orderly, informed manner, and not in the framework of a collective bargaining agreement,” FICC president Uriel Lynn said.
In recent weeks, the Histadrut has been escalating its actions. Last week, on one day alone, it declared labor disputes at Arkia Airlines, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, Egged, Pheonix insurance, Israel Railways, the Mikve Israel Agricultural School, and the Mevaseret Zion local council.
Histadrut sanctions at the Employment Service entered their fifth week on Sunday.
Weeks of strikes over Israel’s postal service came to a close in October. Five hours later, the union declared a dispute over plans to partially privatize government-owned companies.
But the group may find its efforts frustrated down the line. On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked’s bill to prohibit strikes over “political decisions.”
“It is inconceivable that the entire economy is on strike because one group of connected people doesn’t want to open the economy to competition,” she said.
The bill would prevent strikes over government- led reform decisions that do not directly affect work conditions, such as increasing competition at the ports. In such examples, the Histadrut is arguing that workers will be indirectly harmed, as competition will bring down prices and affect the number of jobs and conditions of employment.