Histadrut Threatens Labor Dispute Over Minimum Wage, Outsourcing of Jobs

In private sector, El Al pilots warn of flight disruptions over new regulations barring pilots flying past age of 65.

Yossi Zamir

The Histadrut labor federation plans on declaring a broadly based labor dispute on Tuesday that will mainly affect public sector workers.

The declaration of a labor dispute lays the legal ground for a strike, following a two-week cooling-off period or disruptions of service due to disruptions in workflow. The Israel Teachers Union has declared that it, too, would declare a labor dispute in concert with the Histadrut.

In the private sector, the El Al pilots union is threatening to disrupt flights, starting midweek, in protest at new Civil Aviation Authority regulations that bar pilots from continuing flying after age 65 – even though the general retirement age, for men, is 67. The regulations also apply to Israel’s other two airlines, Arkia and Israir.

At Arkia, the Histadrut declared a work dispute on the issue on behalf of the airline’s pilots over the weekend, after talks on the issue deadlocked. Negotiations continue at Israir.

Elsewhere in the private sector, work disputes were declared by the Histadrut over the weekend at the Egged bus company, at Phoenix insurance, at the Amidar government housing company, paving the way for labor sanctions after two weeks.

The Histadrut says it is pursuing its more general labor action over a failure to raise the minimum wage, the continued outsourcing of positions to workers provided by manpower agencies, and the claim that an agreement regarding integration of workers with disabilities has not been fully implemented, notably among workers in state-funded public sector positions.

Histadrut sources derided Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s willingness to increase the minimum wage by 200 shekels a month, to 4,500 shekels ($1,180), saying it would not address the huge wage disparities in Israel that are, they say, the most important problem facing Israeli society.

A series of contacts the labor federation has had with Finance Ministry representatives, including Lapid himself, in an effort to come to a consensus are still far from resulting in an agreement, the sources said.

“I suggest that government ministers try living on 4,300 shekels a month,” Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn said, pressing his case on the minimum wage. “I’m convinced the entire country will be behind us in this fight.”

Assuming the Histadrut goes ahead on Tuesday with the declaration of a labor dispute in the public sector, there could, theoretically, be a general strike or disruptions at government ministries after the 14-day waiting period, as well as at state agencies such as the National Insurance Institute and government hospitals.

If the Israel Teachers Union, which generally represents teacher in the lower grades, declares its own labor dispute, school classes could also be disrupted after the two-week cooling-off period.

There have already been ongoing labor sanctions at the Employment Service, which today enter their fifth week.