Local Authority 'warning' strike begins

Schools closed in some locations; convoy snarls traffic.

school children israel class 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
school children israel class 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The strike in schools and other municipal offices that the Union of Local Authorities had threatened Thursday evening will go ahead as planned Sunday, ULA head Shlomo Buhbut told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. At press time, kindergartens and schools - except for special education institutions - as well as other municipal services, were expected to be closed in many cities, including Ramat Gan, Sderot, Kiryat Shmona, Shlomi, Acre, Hatzor, Metulla, Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Bialik, Kiryat Ono, Netivot, Dimona, Ofakim and Kiryat Malachi. In Nahariya, junior high schools and high schools will be on strike. In Katzrin and Kiryat Ata, kindergartens will be closed. Arab local authorities announced over the weekend that they, too, were joining the strike, and that there would be no school in Arab communities on Sunday morning. Conversely, several cities announced their schools would open as usual, among them Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Ashdod, Herzliya, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Ra'anana, Netanya, Ramle, Tiberias and Hod Hasharon. "I spoke to the education minister [Gideon Sa'ar] this evening and asked him not to intervene," Buhbut said. "I made it clear that we would not be sending our workers to schools on Sunday, including security guards, and if he wants to open schools without those people there, and take responsibility for the pupils, that's his problem." Buhbut dismissed the notion that the ULA would hold late-night negotiations with government officials on Saturday, in a last-minute effort to prevent any disruptions in the school system. "They don't seem to care," Buhbut said. "The prime minister is going to Egypt tomorrow, and the finance minister is going somewhere else, who knows - the bottom line is that they don't care about the strike, and they apparently don't care about the Israeli people." On Friday, Buhbut had called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to reach agreements with the local authorities on their budget demands before Sunday. "We have time until Saturday night," he told Army Radio on Friday. "If the prime minister, finance minister and interior minister call us, we'll come, sit and talk. We don't want words this time, but deeds." The decision to strike came after a NIS 3 billion budget cut the ULA says the government inflicted on the local authorities' budget. According to Buhbut, the strike was intended to be a warning to the government and would last for two days. If the government doesn't meet the ULA's demands, however, Buhbut has said that a full strike, without time constraints, would begin after Succot. If the strike goes forward, a demonstration by some 130 local authority heads is planned to take place outside the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office on Monday. Other municipal services such as garbage collection are also expected to be included in the strike. On Sunday, hundreds of garbage trucks, buses and commercial vehicles belonging to the local authorities from across the nation are planning a slow convoy to the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. Large traffic jams are expected as a result. Sa'ar met with local authority heads Thursday night and asked them not to disrupt classes. "I understand there are problems and crises which the local authorities are dealing with, but it would be a terrible mistake to allow this to harm the pupils or their studies," Sa'ar told them. Up-to-date information on each local authority's strike involvement can be received at the municipal 106 hot lines.