Schools, municipal services in 240 locales across Israel start two-day strike
Strike to protest government decision to cut budget-balancing grants by 20 percent starting this year.
Educational institutions and sanitation workers in 240 local councils will start a two-day strike Sunday, to protest a government decision to cut budget-balancing grants by 20 percent.
The strike excludes schools for special-needs children.
Israel's three largest cities - Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa - will not be striking. However, they will be closing municipal offices to the public in the morning in the name of solidarity.
"In 2003, local authorities got NIS 3 billion in budget-balancing grants, but in 2010 the government is planning to give only NIS 1.8 billion," said Union of Local Authorities chairman Shlomo Buchbut. "Cutbacks hurt both regular and special needs education, undercut funding for fire departments and religious councils, damage the quality of life and force local councils to raise municipal taxes."
The union said the cuts will result in the dismissal of 6,000 workers, and most of the damage will be to the education system.
Local council heads are demanding the cuts, as well as the special drought tax, be canceled.
School buses, cleaning services and teaching assistants will be striking in participating local councils. Municipal offices will be closed, as will sanitation departments and supervisory departments responsible for enforcing municipal and traffic law, among others.
Tomorrow, a protest is planned in front of the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. The protesters plan to get to Jerusalem on garbage trucks, which could create a considerable traffic jam.
Union officials said the strike, whose slogan is "Bibi is destroying local councils once again," is a warning strike. If their demands are not met, they will begin a general, unlimited strike after Simchat Torah.
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa will close their municipal offices to the public in the morning, in the name of solidarity. Ramat Gan and Petah Tikva will close all municipal services.
The committee of Arab local council leaders said in the weekend it will be joining the strike.
"The struggle over the government absconding from its commitment to local authorities is a vital fight for many local authorities, including Arab ones," said the committee chairman, Nazareth mayor Ramez Jeraysi.
One of the main opponents to the strike is Haifa mayor Yona Yahav. "The strike is a doomsday weapon and should not be used too frequently," he told Haaretz.
"We were not convinced that it's time to use this weapon. We think a dialogue with the government should take place, and strike should be only as a last resort. It's unreasonable to stall the school year two weeks after it began so smoothly."
Buchbut harshly criticized the cities that declined to join the strike.
"Even if 10 or 20 local councils don't join us, it's too bad, but it doesn't matter much. Some of them appear to be well off and well fed, so much so that their bellies obscure the plain fact that nearly 150 local authorities are going to collapse within weeks, solely because of the government's cynical cuts."
"The strike is meant to keep municipal taxes from increasing, and to cancel the drought taxes, which would cost families thousands of shekels. A mayor who doesn't join this just struggle is first and foremost hurting his constituents, abandoning them to pay for the government's cynicism out of their own pockets."
"This struggle is as much about the education of the children of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan it is about the children of Dimona, Safed and Nazareth," Buchbut said.