Strike negotiation deadline passes without agreement

Histadrut, Treasury have been locked overnight in talks to end general strike that has paralyzed Israel's economy; continuation of strike can be barred only by last minute agreement or National Labor Court intervention.

Strike at Ben Gurion Airport 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Strike at Ben Gurion Airport 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The deadline for negotiations taking place overnight Wednesday between the Treasury and the Histadrut Labor Federation has passed without resolution. The parties had originally been scheduled to announce an update at 1 a.m., but extended that deadline multiple times until 6 a.m.
Negotiations between the sides are ongoing, but the general strike looks set to continue barring a surprise last minute agreement between the parties or a rejection of its continuation by the National Labor Court.
The High Court of Justice refused on Tuesday to intervene in the Labor Court’s decision that the strike could go ahead. The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce had petitioned the High Court, arguing that the strike would cause extensive damage to the economy and that it was not legitimate because its aim was to change employment practices, not protect workers’ rights.
In rejecting the petition, the High Court ordered the parties to attend a National Labor Court hearing for further discussion.
The open-ended general strike began on Wednesday at 6 a.m., after all-night negotiations between Eini and Steinitz ended without an agreement on the employment status of contract workers, who do not receive tenure or benefits.
Eini is asking to allow for the partial transfer of cleaning workers to direct employment, transfer of contract workers whose jobs mirror directly employed workers to direct employment, and granting full workers rights to those who remain as contract workers.
According to a Finance Ministry statement, Steinitz offered to provide hundreds of millions of shekels to improve the work conditions of contract workers. The statement added that the Histadrut was insisting on an “unnecessary strike” that would cost the economy billions of shekels.
Banks, government ministries and railway depots were left shuttered on Wednesday, and air traffic was grounded at Ben-Gurion Airport until the early afternoon.
Wednesday was a normal work day for contract workers, who are not part of the Histadrut. staff contributed to this report.