Histadrut threatens budget strike

The Histadrut threatened Tuesday to launch a general strike if no changes are made to the 2007 budget proposed by Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson. "If the Treasury does not take back its unilateral decisions or sit down in a fair manner for negotiations, we will not hesitate to close down the economy even before the [economic] arrangements bill is passed," said Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini, stressing that until now he has advocated "dialogue and agreement" among the different sectors of the economy. The budget proposed Tuesday includes NIS 3.85 billion in cuts to social programs and infrastructure development that had been planned prior to the outbreak of the war. "In the budget proposal, there are far-reaching reforms that harm workers' rights and wages," Eini said. He accused the Finance Ministry of "acting like a private business that makes sure to maintain its profits, and not like a body that must serve the public." The ministry stressed that its responsibility is to the country as a whole, including all sectoral demands and more. "I also want to be nice and give to everyone, but ultimately that doesn't work," said budget supervisor Kobi Haber. "Everyone making demands is only seeing one side, whether it is defense or social spending or various ministers and MKs." Welfare payments frozen include those benefiting the elderly and widows, single mothers, the disabled, those injured on the job and the unemployed, in addition to child allowances, income guarantee allowances and assistance for caregiving.