Histadrut accuses PMO of strikebreaking [pg. 6]

The Histadrut petitioned the Tel Aviv District Labor Court Wednesday to issue a restraining order against the head of the National Authority for Religious Services in the Prime Minister's Office for strikebreaking. The Histadrut said Meir Spiegler, head of the authority, unlawfully sent members of a burial society to bury three bodies, effectively breaking a strike held by 24 religious council workers protesting a seven-month delay in wages. The Histadrut claims Spiegler's action undermined the right to strike. Spiegler said in response, "I acted out of empathy for the relatives and friends of the deceased. I did everything in my power to prevent irreversible damages to innocent citizens despite Histadrut warnings to stay out of the labor conflict." Shlomo Stern, head of the Histadrut's religious services union, said Spiegler should have seen to the transfer of workers' salaries instead of sending strikebreakers. Spiegler, however, said the Yehud Municipality, not the Prime Minister's Office, was responsible for the delay in the payment of religious council workers' salaries. He estimated that Yehud owed the workers more than NIS 2 million. Stern said that, of about 3,000 religious council workers, around 700 had suffered wage delays. The total owed to religious council employees nationwide is about NIS 25m. The nonpayment of religious council workers' salaries is part of the larger budget crisis afflicting local governments. The total annual budget for religious services is NIS 400m. Forty percent of this sum is funded by the state, and the rest is paid by local government. In addition to Yehud, religious council workers in Emmanuel, Bat Yam and Jerusalem have all suffered wage delays.