Amir Peretz did not manage to finish the strike on time - 8 A.M. yesterday - despite the National Labor Court's express order. He needed time to get his act together, to build himself an appropriate stage, to call up the media, and to prepare his ever so trite proclamation - "We won, and we won big time."
That is how he always ends a strike because Peretz, an experienced politician, knows that what is really important is personal image. Will he be portrayed as a ""winner" or loser" - an important card to wave around the top levels of the Labor Party.
But what really happened in that courtroom?
Before he entered court, Peretz declared: "Under no circumstances will we accept the condition of the wages being paid if recovery programs are implemented. We will end this strike only when local authority workers get their salaries, down to the last shekel."
The strike ended without a single worker getting a single shekel. But let's not be petty here, because Steve Adler, the president of the National Labor Court, ruled that the wages must be paid to 96 percent of the workers within a week, by the eve of the Sukkot holidays.
The second concession was far more painful. Even though Peretz repeatedly declared that there is no link between the payment of the wages and recovery programs for the cash-strapped local authorities, Adler expressly declared that there is such a link.
And thus, as the salaries are paid out to the workers, the Histadrut labor federation must do all it can "to draw up recovery programs for the councils as quickly as possible." He even stressed that the Histadrut needs to agree to a "clear and defined timetable and the establishment of a body in the case of disagreements."
The Histadrut can no longer shirk its responsibilities, the court is saying. It must sign on to recovery programs for all local authorities and it needs to realize that "recovery" is a code for cuts, dismissals and early retirements.
On the other hand, Avraham Poraz and Benjamin Netanyahu did not get want they wanted. They wanted the local councils to first sign on the recovery programs and only then would they pay the salaries. But in fact, the shekels will fly out of the coffers within a week and only then will the negotiations on the recovery plans begin - and they may take a long time.
What was the labor court's role in the compromise? Was the strike unnecessary? Could a similar deal have been reached without it?
No. This strike was not unnecessary. Had it not taken place, the Histadrut and the state would not have reached an arrangements and the pain and frustration of the local authority workers would have continued.
Apparently solutions are only found by getting deep into a crisis. Without the strike, the treasury would not have transferred the funds and without the strike, the Histadrut would not have agreed to the recovery plans. The strike was thus essential.
The court filled a vital role as mediator and adjudicator that worked uncharacteristically quickly for a court in our judicial system. The labor court knows that the sides in a labor dispute continue to work together and thus the court adopts the approach of a mediator, as it did here.
The successful resolution of a dispute takes the steam out of the campaign to do away with the labor courts' independence.
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