The one-day public sector strike ended yesterday when Histadrut labor federation chairman Amir Peretz announced it was over and ordered striking workers to return to work. Peretz's announcement came four-and-a-half hours after the president of the National Labor Court, Steve Adler, ordered some 400,000 striking public sector employees back to work.

Adler also instructed the government to pay back wages owed to municipal workers who have been denied salaries for months and, in some cases, even years, in a dispute between the treasury and local municipal councils. However about half of the workers who have been denied wages will not receive their wages by Sukkot, despite the Labor Court's ruling.

Adler ordered that 96 percent of the workers be paid by Sukkot eve next Wednesday, while 4 percent, who are employed in local authorities that refuse to present recovery plans (26 of which are in the Arab sector), receive their wages in full within 40 days. The interior minister will appoint a management committee to run these authorities.

It appears that the Interior Ministry does not intend to carry out the court verdict to the letter, because the wages of 43 percent of the workers who have not been paid will not be paid next week.

"The ministry explained to the court that there is no legal way to pay the wages of the workers of 29 authorities which refuse to sign the recovery plans, because there is a bank lien on these authorities' bank accounts, and any funds the ministry transfers to them will be swallowed up in their debts to receivers," ministry sources said. "These workers consist of almost 4 percent of the 100,000 municipal workers, that's why the court ruled that 96 percent of the workers will be paid by Sukkot," they said.

Among the municipalities whose workers will not be paid are Bnei Brak, Kiryat Gat, Yehud, Migdal and Menahamia, Tira, Fassuta, Tuba, Zangriya and Kalansua.

Apparently, 66 local authorities have not been paying wages to about 7,750 employees. By next Wednesday about 4,450 workers in 37 municipalities and councils will receive the NIS 67.5 million owed them. The remaining 3,300 workers of 29 local authorities will be paid in 40 days. These workers are owed NIS 84.5 million.

Most systems, like the railway lines and sea ports, resumed activity only at 3 P.M. Business soures estimated the cost of the delay in resuming full activity at NIS 250 million, while the economic damage of the strike totaled some NIS 1.2 billion.

Treasury officials praised Adler's "wisdom" and his "clever maneuvering between the Histadrut and the treasury to force the Histadrut to stop its irresponsible strike." However, the officials criticized Peretz for not hastening to order the workers to return to work immediately and waiting for four and a half hours "of public relations."

The Histadrut viewed the strike as a "huge victory," because it achieved the goal of ensuring the payment of wages to 20,000 long-denied municipal and religious council employees. While some workers have not been paid for more than two years, at this stage the money will be paid without compensation for withholding wages and without interest and cost of living linkage.