Strike to continue, except at Ben Gurion Airport

Sides locked in talks to end general strike negotiate past deadline; second day of strike approved by Labor Court president, except at Ben Gurion airport.

National Labor Court, general strike_311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
National Labor Court, general strike_311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The President of the National Labor Court, Judge Nili Arad, ruled early Thursday morning that the strike could continue during the day, but that there was to be no further strike action at Ben Gurion Airport.
Arad's decision came after the Treasury and the Histadrut reported to her earlier Thursday morning that they intended to continue their intensive dialog, and would file another update with the court at 8 a.m.
Representatives of the Treasury and the Histadrut engaged in negotiations throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Arad also ordered the parties to continue to negotiate throughout Thursday. The National Labor Court President said that representatives of the state, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce and the Histadruit to report to her chambers in the National Labor Court at 2 p.m. if they are unable to reach an agreement to end the conflict.
The court will convene a further hearing at 4 p.m. Thursday, and Arad ordered the parties to submit written arguments by that time.
"The court urges the parties once again to do everything necessary to reach an agreement and end the conflict in a peaceable manner," Arad said.
The Treasury and the Histadrut Labor Federation extended the deadline for the conclusion of negotiations four times throughout the night Wednesday. Officials have indicated that real progress has been made in the talks.
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.
Nadav Shemer and staff contributed to this report.