Finance Ministry, Histadrut Deadlocked as Wednesday Strike Looms

Talks log-jammed over treasury demand to tilt wage increases toward lower-income workers.

Rina Rozenberg Kandel
Moti Bassok
Janan Bsoul
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Histadrut members raise their hands to show support for a general strike.
Members of the Histadrut labor federation vote in favor of a general strike.Credit: Oren Cohen / Histadrut
Rina Rozenberg Kandel
Moti Bassok
Janan Bsoul

Israel’s Histadrut labor federation said Monday that public sector workers, including teachers, would begin a strike on Wednesday as talks were log-jammed over treasury demands that lower-paid workers get a larger cut of the wage increases than they have until now.

Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn told a rally of thousands of civil servants opposite the Finance Ministry building in Jerusalem that the strike would begin at 6 A.M. Wednesday and defended the union’s opposition to so-called differential hikes.

“The Histadrut won’t let anyone divide workers one against the other,” he told the rally. But Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who promised in elections last year to help close income gaps, said he could not approve an agreement that didn’t include differential hikes.

The strike will include all government hospitals as well as many private hospitals and Bezeq.

As the union umbrella group issued its warning, El Al Airlines said it was forced to cancel flights to New York and Brussels and reschedule a third to Barcelona because pilots were failing to report to work. Labor leaders termed the pilots’ absence a technical problem, not a labor action.

At Haifa Port, meanwhile, equipment workers began a work slowdown to protest the treasury’s refusal to approve a wage pact signed with the state-owned port’s management. The 100 or so port employees involved were working half their normal hours.

But the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce said it was seeking a court order to block the strike and order unions to avoid any labor action for the next six months while unions and the government hammer out a wage accord.

“The Israeli economy can’t be held hostage to constant strike threats. The fact of a strike declaration, even if it doesn’t come to fruition, is enough to cause heavy damage,” the Chamber said, estimating the direct cost to the economy of a strike at 600 million shekels ($154 million) a day. It said Monday's strike threat was the fourth in the past year.

Government and union negotiators began talks several months ago on a new public sector wage agreement, but they knew that no pact would be signed until after the Knesset approved the 2016-17 budget, which it did last month. Public sector workers have been without a contract for the past two-and-a-half years.

Treasury officials said Monday that workers had effectively gotten a pay raise this year because consumer prices have fallen. “We expect the Histadrut to exhaust the negotiating track first and not to cause damage to the Israeli economy,” one official said.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott