Local authorities strike averted after deal reached

Netanyahu signs agreement with Union of Local Authorities to allocate additional NIS 900 million over the next 2 years to their budgets.

municipality protest 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
municipality protest 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A massive local authorities strike was averted early Sunday, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu signed an agreement with the Union of Local Authorities to allocate an additional NIS 900 million over the next two years to their budgets.
Of the NIS 900m., NIS 50m. will go to meeting salary shortfalls and the rest will help pay operating costs for the localities. According to the Finance Ministry, it has not yet been determined where the funds will come from.
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The government also agreed to appoint a joint committee with the union that will have 45 days to examine the issue of rising municipal water costs and seek methods to break up some of the water corporations that have driven the price of water up in recent years.
These efforts would aim to make water services locally run, which the union believes could see water prices drop as much as 50%.
ULAI spokeswoman Linda Sasson said that the effort to make water services locally run was an even bigger achievement than the budgetary increases.
In addition, the government agreed to open a bimonthly roundtable discussion to be held between the government and the heads of ULAI and the Forum of 15 (the mayors of 15 large cities), to keep channels of communication open.
The roundtable discussions will deal largely with the issue of funding for public schools as well as seeking ways to help the authorities meet operational goals while adhering to budgetary limits.
On Monday, ULAI head Shlomo Buhbut will hold a general assembly to approve the agreement reached with the government.
The Forum of 15, headed by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, has already stated that it will approve the agreement.
The agreement was reached following a meeting called by Netanyahu at 1 a.m., which brought together Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, and the heads of ULAI and the Forum of 15.
The agreement was reached only two hours before the strike was to begin, and it averted widespread disruptions in the school system and a complete shutdown of municipal services across the country, save for Jerusalem and Haifa.
In December, municipal leaders blocked 10 junctions across the country, asking for an additional NIS 500m. in education budgets and NIS 600m. for local authority operations.
The local authorities union has long contended that their workload has increased in recent years, even as their budgets have been slashed.
Local officials have stated that privatization of services and the shifting of the responsibility for welfare and education to the local authorities have stretched their budgets to the breaking point.
The union has stated that at the moment, 22 locales are facing serious problems meeting their payrolls.
Buhbut called the agreement “historic, with social aspects that will work for the benefit of the private citizen’s wallet,” mentioning in particular the issue of water prices.
He said the next step of the plan’s implementation will include radically altering the make-up of local water conglomerates.
Buhbut added that he “is confident that the new budget will strengthen services for the public, and the welfare services and education system.”