The pistol that appears in the first act is fired in the third. And so it is with strikes. When the strikers warn the public of the "mother of all strikes," and that the wicked finance minister plans on destroying organized labor, turning workers into slaves - then the pistol must be fired.
Amir Peretz has to call the strike to show the big workers committees that he still has it in him, particularly after Netanyahu won the first round in taking over the Histadrut pension funds, through legislation.
Peretz needs the strike to prove to those big workers committees that he is doing everything to protect their pensions and those of their friends, and so that they carry on enjoying the good life in the state-run monopolies, free from competition or efficiency, free of care. Right now, a manager at Bezeq, Ashdod Port, or Israel Electric Corporation cannot shift even one worker from job to job without the committee's say.
Peretz needs them. He is dependent on the money these top committees pay to the Histadrut (0.9 percent of wages), which finance the activities of a debt-trodden organization. And whenever they have negotiations with the treasury, there will always be eight or nine of these groups ready to strike in support.
There is an advantage to having one almighty strike. Its better than a long drawn-out industrial action, hurting the economy, exports, and worsening the recession. And you can't close the airport for more than three or four days, or the hospitals. There is even a limit to how much garbage can be left in the streets. So a concerted, extreme strike is the best way, since it can't possibly last more than a few days, and then someone will offer a ladder to both sides, so they can climb down from their high horses, and return to the inevitable negotiating table.
The pensions are at the root of the conflict. Peretz talks of harmed pensioners being abandoned to the stock exchange. The truth is quite the opposite. For years the Histadrut has sucked the pension funds dry. Innocent workers put their money aside, which the Histadrut used for its own purposes, financing its own organizations, building its complexes and finding jobs for its own. Thus the funds reached bankruptcy. Netanyahu's program saves the funds, which would otherwise have gone belly-up.
The problem lies in who should pay the price: the half million fund members or the rest of the country? Netanyahu says it should be half and half. Experts say the fund members should pay for it all.
Another major contention behind the strike is breaking the monopolies - the ports, the airports, Mekorot, the Oil Refineries, electricity, Tnuva, the banks and Bezeq, with Israel Aircraft and Israel Military Industries not far behind. Introducing competition is the name of the game, and if Netanyahu can carry this through, we will move to a new era - a fitter, more modern economy, with lower costs and better service for all. This is what the strikers are fighting against.
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