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Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini is expected to step in to help end the social workers' strike, which today enter's its ninth day.

According to sources in the Histadrut and the Finance Ministry, Eini, who returned last night from a 10-day stay in the United States, will try to formulate an agreement as early as tonight to ward off a strike tomorrow by the Union of Local Authorities.

Representatives of the treasury and the social workers' union have not met for the past three days.

The chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, Shlomo Buhbut, announced over the weekend that all municipal services would shut down for one day tomorrow "in sympathy with the just struggle of the social workers." Speaking at a meeting of local government officials, Buhbut said: "Welfare services are the heart of the work of the municipalities and the local councils, and the social workers deserve proper remuneration for their hard work, after 17 years without a raise."

The expanded strike would mean no garbage collectors or municipal inspectors would come to work, and municipal hotlines and offices would be closed. Schools would operate as usual.

A source involved in the negotiations between the social workers and the treasury said: "Eini will not want to let Buhbut, who sees himself as a candidate for Labor Party chairman, hitch a political ride on the crisis, and he will invest all his energy in formulating an agreement before the strike begins."

In the last round of negotiations, solutions were found for most of the outstanding issues, including the main issue of a raise.

As part of a deal struck between deputy finance minister Itzhak Cohem, the head of unions in the Histadrut, Avi Nissenkorn, and social workers' union chairman Itzhak Peri, the social workers would receive raises of between 23 to 25 percent. Those with at least five years experience and who are employed by non-governmental organizations will receive the same increment as those employed by the government, raising their salary to between NIS 5,500 to 6,000.

The still-unsolved issue is the demand by the social workers' union that the government order the NGOs to earmark the money they receive for salary increases, thus assuring that it reaches the social workers and is not used to increase the salaries of senior officials in those agencies.