The general strike in the public sector that began Wednesday officially ended early Thursday morning after all-night negotiations between Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On produced a compromise wage agreement. Both sides agreed that all public sector workers would receive a 5 percent wage increase, down from the initial 10% demanded by the Histadrut.
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The agreement was reportedly reached at 5:00 a.m., one hour before the Histadrut threatened to expand the strike to Ben-Gurion Airport.
According to the deal, by 2009, public sector employees will receive a salary increase of five percent; one-and-a-half percent in January 2008, one-and-a-half percent in December 2008 and the remaining two percent in 2009.
The two sides also agreed that the retirement plans for permanent employees would be fixed and would not need to be frequently reevaluated. However, there were set to be further discussions on resolving other problems regarding public sector workers' pensions.
Bar-On told Israel Radio that he was satisfied that the threat of an all-out strike had been removed, adding that Eini had shown responsibility in reaching the agreement. "The agreement represents the will of the employees but also considers the needs of the economy," added the finance minister.
Eini also expressed great satisfaction with the outcome. "The deal is good for both sides and it proves that real discussions around the negotiating table can lead to an agreement," he said.
While stressing that that the deal was only an interim agreement and that the Treasury was given a week to reach a final settlement, Eini called on public sector employees to return to work.
Just hours before the strike was expected to hit Ben-Gurion Airport, the airport geared up to maximum capacity to allow a record 120 flights to take off throughout the night - one flight every three minutes - and get 20,000 passengers out of the country.