Text size

The report released last week on the country's monopolies caused quite a stir. It's not every day that the largest and strongest work places in the economy are accused of wreaking havoc each year to the tune of NIS 5 billion. The management of these monopolies immediately assembled for some mutual counsel. Did they talk of new efficiency plans or how to lower their prices? Pull the other one. They focused on a media strategy: how to convince the media and the general public that the treasury is mistaken, that the monopolies are enlightened, the most efficient and the cheapest in the world. And if there is a need for something to be done, it should be to grant them Certificates of Outstanding Achievement.

But the business media are not that gullible. The monopolies may continue to employ services of the best PR firms, and distribute press announcements, and even to take out large press ads. Meanwhile, the media can check out the wages situation - because according to the law of state monopolies (and the public sector in general) there is the greatest distortion in the number of excess workers and bloated wages at the top. So apparently the highest wage earner in the public sector is a Dr. Azai Appelbaum, manager of the chest surgery at Soroka Hospital (part of the Clalit HMO) who earns NIS 108,000 a month. Number two on the list is the head of Clalit itself, which finishes every year with a massive deficit. Can you imagine how much they would earn if the HMO turned a profit instead?

In the Oil Refineries monopoly, top wage goes to the head of the ethylene unit, a Jacky Vehavy, who earns NIS 54,000 a month. At the airports authority, number one takes home NIS 56,000, while at the ports, there are 300 workers who earn more than NIS 34,000, the prime minister's monthly pay. First at the ports is Telal Mansour, works manager, with a monthly salary of NIS 66,000. In 14th place comes a seaman on NIS 51,300 and in 18th place, a pilot on NIS 50,160. In 24th place, is a simple worker on NIS 48,900, and way down in 300th place is another similar worker on NIS 34,000.

The Israel Broadcasting Authority is expected to end the year with a deficit. Everyone knows about its vast hidden unemployment and pitiful domestic productions. But that doesn't stop its staffers from having a whale of a time on the TV licenses revenues. Topping the list there is a technician, Meir Haimi, who gets paid NIS 47,000 a month. In second place is another technician, on similar pay.

Once upon a time, anyone in the public sector enjoyed tenure and good conditions of work, albeit with low pay. Over the years, the workers' committees (particularly those of the monopolies) have taken strike action and squeezed pay increases (particularly to the senior staffers) from weak, cowardly governments. In addition, a decade ago, then finance minister Avraham Shochat gave public sector workers increases of dozens of percentage points, mostly to senior staffers. All of which has brought us to our absurd state today, when it is best to work in the public sector.