General strike ends: Histadrut, Treasury reach agreement

Sides talk through the night, reach agreement on every disputed item; Treasury: Deal will cost NIS 800m.; Eini: "This is not the end of the process, we have put our foot in the door."

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 Labor Federation said Sunday morning that all-night negotiations with the Finance Ministry were successful and that it had ended the general strike over the status of contract workers just hours into its fifth day.
During the intensive talks that resumed at 9 p.m. Saturday night, the two sides reached agreements on every disputed item, a Histadrut spokesman said in a message sent to journalists just before 9 a.m. Sunday.
The open-ended general strike began last Wednesday at 6 a.m., shutting down basic services including government offices, banks, trains and institutes of higher education.
 All trash collection and public transportation returned to standard operation on Sunday morning shortly after the announcement that an agreement had been reached.
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz spent the entire night at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem conducting negotiations over the final issues holding up an agreement. One issue 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 had 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.
Treasury Budgets Director Gal Hershkovitz said Sunday that the deal would cost approximately NIS 800 million to enact.
The Finance Ministry stated that the agreement "meaningfully improves the wages and conditions of tens-of-thousands of contract workers."
According to the statement, the tens-of-thousands of contract workers impacted by the deal will have their monthly salary raised from NIS 4,100 to NIS 4,500, as well as enjoying an improvement in pension benefits, convalescence pay, holiday bonuses and subsidized lunches.
"The agreement reflects the needed balance between an improvement in the rights of cleaning and security workers and the government's responsibility to protect Israel's economy," the Finance Ministry stated.
Eini on Sunday expressed satisfaction with the deal, saying, "We got what we wanted from the start."
In an Army Radio interview, Eini rejected claims that he had failed to solve the problem of contract workers, because not all the workers in question would be transferred to direct employment as part of the deal.
"This is not the end of the process," Eini said of the agreement, "we have put our foot in the door."
The Histadrut chairman claimed that expecting all contract workers to be transferred to direct employment as part of the deal was unrealistic. "To take in all the contract workers in one day would cost 50 billion shekels."
Nadav Shemer and Joanna Paraszczuk contributed to this report.