National Labor Court approves Histadrut general strike

Histadrut labor federation is free to begin strike mid-week; Treasury calls use of strikes "cynical."

Labor strike picket signs 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Labor strike picket signs 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
National Labor Court President Nili Arad lifted an injunction late Thursday night against a Histadrut labor federation general strike over the employment status of contract workers, clearing the way for a strike to begin on Wednesday morning.
There was no choice but to declare that the negotiations between the two sides had reached a deadlock, Arad said.
“We came to the conclusion that this is a legitimate strike,” the judge said. “We examined whether the strike met the required test of proportionality, and we arrived at the conclusion that – at this stage – it does.”
The court first ordered the Histadrut, Treasury and employers to conduct negotiations after allowing the labor federation to hold a four-hour strike this Tuesday.
The Treasury called the Histadrut’s use of strikes “cynical,” and said it did not take into account the harm it would cause the economy and general public. The Treasury added that the state was working to improve the conditions of contract workers, and that there was therefore no reason for the strike.
Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations Chairman Shraga Brosh, who also participated in negotiation, called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene personally to prevent a strike.
“This is no time for more economic upheaval, given that the world is going through a tough economic crisis that is also impacting upon us,” Brosh said. “I believe that chaos can still be prevented and that the dispute can still be solved around the negotiations table.”
Arad said that in accordance with the court’s previous ruling, which ordered the Histadrut to notify it a week in advance of any industrial action, the strike could commence on Wednesday, February 8, at 6 a.m.
However, the court placed several limitations on the strike, allowing Ben-Gurion Airport to shut down only between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon. The judge also ruled that any industries participating in the labor shutdown must comply with certain conditions, to ensure they do not endanger human life, personal safety or public health.
Security and hospital personnel are not permitted to take part, and all ports must release perishable goods, medicines and any other goods connected with saving human lives. Airports must also allow flights whose purpose is to save human lives, and local authorities must continue to operate fire and emergency services, and special educational schools.
Magen David Adom services must also work as usual, as will consular passport services.
The Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s special educational services will not take part in the strike; and family health services will work according to emergency regulations. The Israel Electric Corporation and the Bezeq telephone company will work according to their Saturday timetables, the judge ruled.
Public transport services will be permitted to strike only partially, to avoid paralyzing the entire system. If Israel Railways is striking, Egged and Dan buses must run, the Arad added.
In addition, the judge said that a national extraordinary council has been established, the role of which is to consider special requirements and emergency situations. The council will operate subcommittees in various sectors.
She also ruled that both sides will attend a hearing in the National Labor Court at 2 p.m. on February 8, after the strike has begun. Both sides were also ordered to sign an agreement to continue negotiations and to try all means to end the dispute.