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The employees of the Israel Post are scheduled to strike this morning to protest the state's new policy on postal rates.

The total strike of all postal services, after more than a week of partial sanctions, has been approved by the Histadrut labor federation and has been called for an unlimited period of time. It will shut down all 700 post office branches throughout the country, including the Postal Bank. No mail will be delivered, and it will be impossible to make payments to government bodies such as the tax authorities and the National Insurance Institute.

A crucial meeting scheduled for yesterday evening in Tel Aviv, set to include Histadrut head Ofer Eini, Communications Minister Ariel Atias, Treasury Director General Yarom Ariav and Israel Post CEO Avi Hochman, was canceled for "technical reasons." One report said the talks were put on hold after Ariav said he would not attend.

The employees say the new postal services pricing regime adopted by the cabinet will destroy the Israel Post. They claim the new policies set prices for the post office but not its private competitors, and that when postal services are opened to full competition in July, 1,000 of the post's 4,500 permanent employees will be fired as a result, as will all 2,500 temporary workers.

Atias took the workers' side in the dispute last weekend and said he would negotiate with the treasury to ensure that the Israel Post does not collapse, and that employees are not fired.

Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson also promised to negotiate over the price agreement, but so far no agreement has been reached.

The Israel Post's management called on its employees to avoid harming customers, and expressed hope that the finance and communications ministers would be able to reach a quick solution to the crisis.