Senior Histadrut labor federation officials reacted combatively to yesterday's Haaretz report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is drafting a bill to allow ministers to fire or transfer public sector employees.

"We will not allow the government to wreck the collective bargaining agreements it signed with us," one Histadrut official said.

Histadrut spokesmen said neither the Prime Minister's Office nor the Finance Ministry spoke to the labor federation about the bill, nor did they conduct any negotiations on any plan to change how the civil service operates.

"As long as the matter is not formulated as a section of the Economic Arrangements Law, it does not exist," said Histadrut officials. They also expressed doubt that the 2013 budget would even be presented soon.

On Sunday, Netanyahu instructed his director-general, Harel Locker, to draft a bill giving cabinet ministers and their top managers the authority to fire or transfer state workers. The draft law is to be submitted to the cabinet for approval as soon as possible.

"Any unilateral change in the status of government workers or their employment conditions will meet a fierce response on the legal, public and organizational level," said the officials.

Knesset members on the left also attacked Netanyahu's proposal. "Netanyahu won't fire public sector workers, it is the public that will fire Netanyahu," said Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich.

"At a time of mass layoffs, which Netanyahu is doing nothing to prevent, he decides the most urgent problem is to quickly fire dedicated, hard workers who earn a pittance, including teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, police, child care workers, prosecutors and prison guards," she added.

Women's organizations were particularly incensed by the news. Some 56% of public sector employees are women, and it is very likely they would be the first to be fired, noted women's rights activists.

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz ) said Netanyahu was using the dictatorship of the majority to fire public sector workers. "Israel must not become a banana republic where the government, instead of dealing with the problems with his policies, uses the power of the coalition to pass legislation whose sole goal is silencing opposition," she said