General strike appears set to continue

Despite ‘real progress,’ basic services will remain closed; Egged and Dan buses to join strike today, but trains will resume.

Demonstration in front of Labor Court 390 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Demonstration in front of Labor Court 390
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Histadrut’s general strike over the employment status of contract workers appeared set to continue this morning, dependent on the result of overnight talks. Representatives for the Histadrut and the Finance Ministry met in Jerusalem at 9 p.m. Saturday in an effort to reach an agreement.
Judge Nili Arad, National Labor Court president, ruled late Thursday night that the strike could continue, but that Ben-Gurion Airport and all ports must operate as usual. In her ruling, Arad said that both sides reported making “real progress” in their negotiations, but added that several differences still needed to be resolved.
The open-ended general strike began Wednesday at 6 a.m., shutting down basic services including government offices, banks, trains and institutes of higher education.
Egged and Dan buses, which have operated as usual until now, will join the strike today.
However, trains will resume operations. Buses transporting IDF soldiers from train stations to their bases will operate as usual.
Arad said that in the light of the sincere efforts made by both sides, they should continue to work toward a peaceable end to the conflict. She ordered each side to file detailed written arguments to the court by 10 a.m. today, if they are unable to reach an agreement before then. At that stage, she said, the court will decide whether to issue a fresh injunction to terminate the strike.
Arad lifted a three-month injunction on the strike the previous week, saying that there was no choice but to declare that negotiations over the employment status of contract workers had reached a deadlock.
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz spent most of Thursday locked in direct discussion, but two stumbling blocks remained. One was Eini’s demand that contract workers, whose jobs mirror those of directly-employed workers, also be transferred into direct employment. The other was Steinitz’s demand that the Histadrut promise not to declare another industrial dispute for at least four years.
Steinitz has apparently already agreed to Eini’s other demands, including the transfer of some cleaning workers to direct employment, and an increase in the minimum wage from NIS 4,100 to NIS 4,500.