Histadrut declares public work dispute

Treasury's revised stimulus plan doesn't include pension safety net demanded by labor federation.

Eini 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Eini 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Histadrut declared a work dispute in the public sector on Sunday, after the Finance Ministry refused to give in to the union's demand for a pension safety net. The decision is currently informal, as it awaits the approval of the Histadrut's management on Tuesday, Israel Radio reported. The work dispute decision was announced on the weekend; a revised economic plan submitted by the Treasury to Attorney General Menahem Mazuz on Sunday included some provisions for pension plans but the Histadrut announced the work dispute nevertheless. "Over the past few months we have been in talks with the Finance Ministry in an effort to find a solution to the problem, but without success. The Finance Ministry is acting irresponsibly, forcing us to take this difficult action," said Ofer Eini, chairman of the labor federation. "I don't understand what the Finance Ministry is waiting for. There is the political support - economists and the public believe that there is an immediate need for the implementation of a pension safety net, in particular for those who are nearing retirement age and are seeing their savings disappear." No progress was made between the labor federation and the Treasury over the weekend on a compromise. After the Finance Ministry's budget supervisor, Ram Belinkov, met with Eini late on Wednesday night and then rejected the Histadrut's demand for a safety net, Eini threatened to convene the leaders of the country's big unions on Sunday. The intention was to declare a labor dispute in protest of the Treasury's economic stimulus plan, presented last Wednesday, and the government's refusal to include a pension safety net. By law, the Histadrut can call a strike within two weeks of a dispute being declared. The union is threatening to include parts of the private sector such as banks in the strike action, in addition to the public sector. The Treasury considers Eini's threat to be politically-motivated and therefore, has not been taking it very seriously. However, officials at the ministry said that they have been working in recent weeks together with the Bank of Israel on measures that could be implemented if the financial situation deteriorated dramatically and posed a serious threat to the public's savings. "The Histadrut cannot go on strike just because they don't like the government's actions. The National Labor Court approve this," a Finance Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post. Also over the weekend, the federation and the manufacturers made progress on a legislative proposal for an economic plan that purports to provide a pension safety net, aid for businesses in difficulties, and ways to prevent layoffs. "As I have already announced, it is my intention to appeal to all Knesset factions to support this plan and thereby avert a general strike," Eini said.