Israel should be prepared for a general strike next week, Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini said Thursday following a meeting with Treasury Wage Director Eli Cohen in which the latter offered to raise government wages by 0.2 percent by 2009, instead of the 10%-13% which the Histadrut was demanding. "The proposal by the Finance Ministry of a salary increase of 0.2% by 2009 is insulting," Eini said after the meeting. He then instructed professional unions and workers unions in the public sector to prepare for a general strike as early as next week. Cohen defended the suggested pay raise, saying that the salaries of workers in the public sector go up by a rate of 1.5% every year, even without an official wage agreement. This, he claimed, occurred automatically with an increase in a worker's seniority. "We have no room for a significant increase in salaries at a time when the government is cutting crucial sums from the defense and education budgets," Cohen said. On Monday, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and the Histadrut chairman are scheduled to meet in Jerusalem in an attempt to break the deadlock.