Municipalities protest budget problems by blocking traffic

46 local authorities want garbage separation to spearhead recycling; government made major cuts to municipality budgets.

municipality protest 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
municipality protest 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Hundreds of local authority employees held demonstrations at nine major traffic intersections across Israel on Wednesday, to call for an end to government cuts in local municipality budgets.
The protests began at 9 a.m. and went on for an hour, blocking traffic at junctions from Yad Mordechai in the South to the Golani junction in the Western Galilee.
Linda Sasson, a spokeswoman for the Union of Local Authorities, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that the protest was being held because the local authorities were being asked to carry a larger and larger burden, while the funds they received from the government remained the same.
“The local councils are asked to provide services like welfare and education that the state government should give. The government has privatized services and shifted the responsibility to the local authorities, but forgot to give them the money they need to meet these obligations,” she said.
Sasson said the union was demanding a drop in water prices, and a budget increase of NIS 500 million for schools and NIS 600m. for local authorities.
The money was slashed from the national budget in recent years, and the union says such cuts have dramatically affected its operations.
According to Sasson, there are currently 22 local authorities in Israel that are having serious problems paying the salaries of their employees.
When asked if the Finance Ministry had responded to their demands, she replied that the ministry had completely ignored them.
On Tuesday, local authority employees held a surprise demonstration at the Income Tax offices in south Tel Aviv, blocking the entry of workers.
In October, the local authorities held a one-day strike across the country, in response to what they called a breakdown in negotiations with the government.
Meanwhile, 46 local authorities, in which 2 million people live, have submitted requests for funding to separate garbage at the source, the Environmental Protection Ministry said Wednesday. The ministry has allocated NIS 600m. to assist in the recycling revolution, of which the 46 requests constitute NIS 400m.
Source separation means separating garbage into “wet,” or organic, garbage and “dry” garbage, which is paper, plastic, metal and other materials. The ministry program accompanies the Packaging Bill approved for final readings on Monday, which places responsibility for recycling product packaging on the manufacturers and importers. The ministry funds can be used for end solutions like transfer points, sorting stations or recycling plants, but come with a commitment to move to source separation within three years.
Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem did not submit requests, but many smaller cities, such as Arad, Beersheba, Eilat, Rosh Pinna and Dimona, did.

Ehud Zion Waldoks contributed to this report.