Religious councils' workers threaten to halt burials over salary issue

Religious councils workers demand their pay; Jerusalem councils on strike for 10 days, weddings, mikvaot affected

In coming days the nation's deceased will not be brought to burial unless workers in 40 religious councils receive their pay, the Histadrut Labor Federation announced Tuesday. On Sunday, the Histadrut officially announced a labor dispute after hundreds of unionized religious council workers complained that they had not received their paychecks for over a month and in some cases for as long as half a year. According to labor rules, a nationwide strike can be called two weeks after the official announcement of a labor dispute. About 5,000 workers are employed in religious councils. In Jerusalem, religious council employees began striking 10 days ago. As a result, couples cannot register for marriage and men's mikvaot are closed, while women's mikvaot are working on a reduced-hour holiday schedule. However, the strike has not affected burials in Jerusalem since private burial associations (hevra kadisha) are responsible for bringing the deceased to rest in the city, not the religious councils. On Tuesday Safed's religious council workers began striking. As a result, deceased will not be brought to burial there. In Lod, the refusal of workers to bury three bodies brought about the payment of workers' salaries. Workers say the state owes them NIS 18 million in salaries and as much as NIS 100m. in pension and retirement benefits.