Steinitz: Not too late to avert next week’s strike

Finance minister optimistic deal can be made with Histadrut to avoid public sector work stoppage.

Yuval Steinitz 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Yuval Steinitz 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed optimism on Thursday that a general strike in the public service, scheduled for next week, will be averted.
During a visit at the Carmel Academic Center in Haifa, Steinitz said that he has faith in the Histadrut labor federation’s leadership and that the sides could come to an arrangement during their Friday morning meeting that would avoid the strike.
“The Histadrut has a serious and responsible leadership, which has proven over the last two years that it sees not only the need to protect workers, but also the need to promote the Israeli economy during an international crisis that the world hasn’t seen the likes of in 70 years,” said Steinitz. “I am convinced that we can reach agreements and compromises and avoid a strike that can damage the economy and the citizens of Israel. The gaps are large, but there is responsibility, both on our part and on the part of the Histadrut.”
Three weeks ago, Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini declared a work dispute over wages in the public sector.
In negotiations with wage supervisor Ilan Levin, Histadrut Trade Union Division chairman Avi Nissenkorn demanded a 3.5 percent pay raise for about 750,000 public servants. It would apply for three years – 2009, 2010 and 2011 – and constitute a cumulative wage hike of 10.5%. The Finance Ministry has agreed to consider a salary increase of 0.5% for each year, a cumulative 1.5% over three years.
The potential labor sanctions, in case Friday’s meeting doesn’t deliver results, would include all government ministries, local authorities (including garbage collection), government companies, ports, trains, the Postal Authority, the National Insurance Institute, the Israel Lands Administration and university administrations.