Israel Electric Company Workers Go on Strike

Workers' committee declares strike in protest over collapse of negotiations regarding structural reforms, plans for increased efficiency.

While public attention is focused on the natural gas monopoly, the electricity monopoly is embarking on its own campaign.

The workers’ committee at the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) declared a general strike Tuesday morning, in protest over the collapse of negotiations regarding the implementation of proposed structural reforms and plans for increased efficiency. The committee instructed its workers at the company’s headquarters to go home, leaving only the essential manpower.

At a meeting of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee, workers’ committee chairman David (Miko) Zarfati said that “the IEC is on the brink of an abyss and the workers don’t intend to play the role of responsible adults after all the warning lights have been there for so long. In its present condition, the corporation cannot supply services required by the public. It’s time to clarify to decision makers what could happen if the IEC is not here tomorrow.”

The Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by Labor MK Avishai Braverman, discussed the government’s request, made for the 12th consecutive time, to defer the implementation of structural changes at the IEC.

The law regulating the supply of electricity, passed in 1996, stipulated that the permits for production, transmission and distribution of electricity have an expiration date and would not be renewed unless the Corporation undergoes structural changes. All attempts to carry out such changes failed, and each year the government extended the permits by issuing executive orders that require approval by the Knesset committee.

Since the permit for production of electricity is set to expire this week, the Ministry of Energy published a law memorandum requesting the extension of the implementation of structural changes by another year, until January 1, 2016.

However, the relevant senior officials did not show up at Tuesday morning’s meeting. This included the top officials from IEC as well as the head of the Government Companies Authority Uri Yogev, as well as senior staff from the Ministry of Energy.

Under these circumstances MK Braverman announced that that the production permits would not be extended until Energy Minister Silvan Shalom and IEC Director Yiftah Ron-Tal appear before the Knesset committee.

Zarfati added that “the government of Israel needs to wake up from its coma and emerge from its bubble, understanding that no matter who the next Prime Minister is or which party gets the most votes, the entire public will pay the price if the IEC collapses.”