Histadrut ends general strike after compromise reached

Finance Ministry, Histadrut agree to 5 percent wage increase for all public sector workers, down from the initial 10% demanded by the union.

civil strike 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
civil strike 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The general strike that began Wednesday officially ended early Thursday morning after all-night negotiations between Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini and Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On produced a compromise wage agreement. According to reports, both sides agreed that all public sector workers would receive a 5 percent wage increase, down from the initial 10% demanded by the Histadrut. The agreement was reportedly reached at 5:00 a.m., one hour before the Histadrut threatened to expand the strike to Ben-Gurion Airport.
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  • Just hours before the strike was expected to hit Ben-Gurion Airport, at 6 a.m. on Thursday, 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. "A strike at the airport on Thursday is particularly problematic for the religious public, which will have to wait until after Shabbat to fly out," Israel Aviation Authority director Gaby Ofir had said. "Therefore I urge the Histadrut chairman to exclude the airport from the strike, at least until after Shabbat." On Wednesday afternoon, the Treasury's wages director, Eli Cohen, met with Eini to discuss their differences. The Finance Ministry said it was "ready for dialogue with the Histadrut at any time, as long as the talks were within the framework of negotiations with reasonable and responsible boundaries, sensitive to the accompanying cost of a pay rise for public sector workers, for the economy's ability to bear the outcome." Agreeing to the Histadrut's original demand of a 10% rise in public sector wages would have required a cut in education, social services and defense budgets, the Finance Ministry said. Cohen announced on Wednesday morning that the state would deduct the work days missed by the 600,000 public sector employees due to the strike from their salaries. Workers participating in partial sanctions will face partial deductions, he said. At 6 a.m. on Wednesday, the economy came to a near halt after the National Labor Court rejected petitions filed by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, the Employers' Association and the Israel Hotel Association against the public sector general strike declared Tuesday night by Eini that was expected to cost the economy up to NIS 1 billion a day. National Labor Court President Steve Adler postponed the hearing on the petitions until 9 a.m. on Thursday. Most government offices and the postal service remained closed Wednesday. The Defense Ministry still worked, registered mail was being delivered and, apart from Kupat Holim Clalit, which was only operating emergency care, other health service organizations worked as usual. The Ashdod, Haifa and Eilat ports and Israel Railways were also on strike. Bank of Israel employees halted the transfer of cash to commercial banks and stopped providing financial clearing services to members of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. However, the Histadrut instructed the Sderot Municipality and emergency services to continue working, and emergency services in the Gaza Strip periphery communities were also open to the public.