Histadrut threatens labor dispute with gov't over personal contracts

The Histadrut labor federation is threatening to formally declare a labor dispute today - a preliminary step to a possible strike - encompassing all government offices, municipalities and local authorities, including regional councils, over the hiring of workers on personal contracts. Declaring a dispute serves as a two-week warning of a possible strike. Thousands of workers are believed to be employed through individual contracts in the government sector and the Histadrut is concerned that their numbers are on the rise. The Histadrut forced through a provision for negotiating a drastic reduction in the number of civil servants employed through personal contracts in an agreement in principle signed a year ago, but it says the Finance Ministry has since let the matter slide. (Haim Bior)

Clal becomes first unionized insurer in 18 years

Clal Insurance is becoming unionized under the auspices of the Histadrut labor federation. Management informed the union umbrella group yesterday that it recognized collective bargaining rights for 3,500 of its employees and their workers committee. The 3,500-member staff includes most of the insurance company's departments but not its five insurance brokerages and their 1,000 employees. Employees have been struggling to organize since last June, driven by concern that the company, which is controlled by Nochi Dankner's IDB group, might be sold as a whole or in parts. It marks the first time in 18 years that employees of an Israeli insurance company have organized in a union. (Haim Bior)

Israel's foreign trade plunged in three months

Israeli foreign trade fell sharply in the November 2012 to January 2013 period, with merchandise exports dropping at an annualized rate of 16.6% and imports of goods down 14.5%, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported yesterday. The decline hastened from an 8.7% annualized drop in exports and a 10.1% drop in imports in the preceding three-month period. The bureau said Israel posted a trade deficit of NIS 4.2 billion in January, down from NIS 7.9 billion a year earlier. High-tech exports, which make up almost half of all industrial exports, fell at a 19.4% rate in the three months after declining 3.5% in the previous three-month period. (Moti Bassok)