Postal sanctions continue as intensive talks begin

The government and the national union of Israel Postal Company workers have agreed to negotiate intensively even as sanctions halt mail deliveries and close postal branches early. After a meeting of several hours between union representatives and Communications Minister Ariel Attias late Sunday night, it was announced that Histadrut secretary-general Ofer Eini would be asked to intervene and bring an end to the crisis. The workers say the Finance and Communications Ministries are doing nothing to prevent the dismissal of thousands of staffers with the full opening of competition in postal services. Starting July 1, commercial firms will be able to compete with the Postal Company in the dispatch of bulk mail, which was forbidden until now. The Postal Company was not allowed by the government to make its rates more flexible to compete with entrepreneurs, the workers claim. Since last Wednesday, there have been no mail deliveries. Postal branches have closed at 3 p.m., and when they are open, workers have refused to accept payments to state agencies, such as income tax, VAT and the National Insurance Institute. In addition, the transfer of vehicle ownership is also not being facilitated at postal branches, and free distribution of diplomatic mail has been halted. On Tuesday, the Knesset Economics Committee will hold a session to hear the workers' complaints and the comments of government and Postal Company representatives. On Wednesday, there will be a "crucial meeting" of union and government representatives to try to close the gaps and make it possible to bring an end to the sanctions.