Charity begins....

Do the poor of your own city [hall] come first?

jerusalem city hall 88 (photo credit: )
jerusalem city hall 88
(photo credit: )
About half of municipal employees earn salaries that are less than the minimum wage, according to Municipal Treasurer Eli Zitok in response to a question posed by City Councilman Pepe Allalu (Meretz). For almost 3,000 of Kikar Safra's approximately 7,000 employees, NIS 3,000 gross monthly pay is a sad reality. In some departments, such as the sanitation department, workers are able to augment their salary by working double shifts, putting in overtime, or working over holidays, raising their income to an average NIS 3,335 a month. Tzion Dahan, head of the Employees' Association, says that the situation is not new and blames the Finance Ministry and, in particular, the head of the salaries department, Yuval Rachlevsky. "He is the one who brought this situation on us," Dahan accuses. Recently, the Finance Ministry demanded that the municipality cut salaries of kindergarten teachers, teachers' aides and others who are paid according to government-mandated salary scales. At the same time some municipal employees, who have been issued personal contracts, earn between NIS 20,000 to 40,000 a month. Each of Mayor Uri Lupolianski's six deputies earns between NIS 36,000 and 46,000 a month. "Nobody even asked himself how these people can make a living on NIS 3,000 a month, and it seems normal to the officials that others earn more than ten times that amount," Dahan complained. In fact, according to data published in the Hebrew press, the 25 top-earning employees in the municipality earn a combined salary of NIS 8.8 million a year. In contrast, the combined salaries of the 3,145 workers who earn minimum wage total only NIS 1.2 million. The data also reveal a persistent gap between men's and women's salaries, and most of the workers who earn minimum wage or less are women. Furthermore, men are awarded most of the municipal tenders. Dahan announced that he will not stop his fight against salary cuts and is considering both court appeals and the possibility of a municipal strike. Meanwhile, the rehabilitation program, which requires that the municipality fire or provide early retirement to nearly 1,000 employees over three years, is stymied, and there has been no contact between Dahan and Eitan Meir, municipal director-general, since January. The most current struggle, between Dahan and Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi, focuses on the appointment of the Director of the Culture Department. In the first stages of the rehabilitation program, about 450 employees did leave the municipality, but none have left recently. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry is threatening to freeze the extra budgets promised to the city on condition that it implement the rehabilitation program. Mayor Lupolianski met with Dahan earlier this week, and Director-General Meir was not invited to the meeting. Another such meeting has been scheduled, but Dahan says he is not optimistic. "I will never accept a situation in which simple people, who can barely make a living with such a low salary, will be the only ones to pay the price of the recovery of the municipality. I pledged to support them, not those who bring those fat salaries home." In a written statement, Gidi Schmerling, Municipal Spokesman, said that in most cases, actual gross pay is higher than minimum wage, due to the benefits to which some workers are entitled by law, such as travel expenses, telephone, overtime, and so forth. He further points out that the gap between the numbers of men and women who earn minimum wage is similar to the gender distribution of employees, since the municipality employees 4,113 women and 2,926 men, and argues that there is no difference in salary levels between men and women who hold identical jobs at the same level of education, seniority, and so forth. The mayor, Schmerling continued, is satisfied with the progress in the rehabilitation program, which is proceeding as planned and in full coordination with the various government ministries.