Israel's Court Strike Ends After Almost 6 Weeks

Dispute, centering on implementation of new reforms, had slowed down secretarial and accounting operations.

The Tel Aviv District Court, in 2015.
Eyal Toueg

An agreement struck between the Histadrut labor federation, the Finance Ministry and courts' officials ended the general strike in Israel's court system on Monday.

The accord was reached by Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn; Finance Ministry director of wages Yossi Cohen; Ariel Yakobi, chairman of the Histadrut state employees’ division; Courts Administration director Judge Michael Spitzer; and Danny Hasson, head of the administration's workers’ union. All court employees were due to return to work on Tuesday morning, after a hiatus of about six weeks.

The workers' union launched the strike in June due to a prolonged labor dispute with the Courts Administration related to a strategic plan for streamlining the entire system. The dispute centered around the compensation due to workers after implementation of the reform, although the scheme does not call for dismissals per se. The union claimed, nevertheless, that because of the various new efficiency measures, workers would be transferred from their positions to other jobs, which will increase their work load.

For example, there is an intention to bring new mechanisms into the courtrooms to record the proceedings, which are expected to save time. This plan would turn stenographers into “courtroom administrators,” who would be trained to operate the new systems. Another part of the plan would turn secretaries into “active secretaries” – meaning that in addition to sending summonses out, they would have to ensure that the parties involved will in fact show up for the proceedings. Here, too, the purpose is to save time.

During the initial stages of the strike, the secretaries’ work was disrupted, there were no office hours for receiving the public in the courts, and only urgent matters were handled. In addition, it was impossible to submit official legal documents or requests in person, and in the absence of employees in the secretarial and accounts departments, payments could only be made in post office branches or via the internet.

Among other things, during this period, discussions by committees that determine the release of prisoners were canceled or postponed.

In a discussion at the Tel Aviv District Labor Court on June 22, it was decided that the strikers would return to work and simultaneously begin intensive negotiations. When the sides were unable to reach agreement, however, the workers intensified their protest, and with judicial approval the courts began operating in a reduced format.