Oil Refineries Workers Back on the Job as Talks Resume

Workers demanding quarter-million compensation and job security, too

The threat to transport in  Israel has been rescinded, for the nonce: the workers at Oil Refineries have suspended their strike and resumed the gasoline supply.

Acting prime minister Ehud Olmert and Ofer Eini, the new chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, agreed last night that the workers should get back on the job. In parallel, intensive negotiations would resume over compensation upon the company's privatization.

Koby Haber, the budget director at the Finance Ministry, will join the talks, Olmert and Eini agreed. The goal of the talks is an agreement assuring the workers' rights.

Concern had arisen that a strike at Oil Refineries could cause a shortage of gasoline at stations from next week, after the workers declared a strike at midnight on Sunday.

On Monday the manager of the Government Companies Authority, Eyal Gabbay, met yesterday with Eini but their conversation broke down after two hours. The authorities were considering obtaining a back to work order from the courts.

Meanwhile, yesterday the workers stopped supplying gasoline to the fuel companies. They also halted all distillation of fuel products and all maintenance at the Oil Refineries facilities.

For all the workers' protests, Oil Refineries' privatization has kicked into high gear. Two weeks ago the state published a tender for the outright sale of the Ashdod refinery, the smaller of the company's two facilities. After it sells the Ashdod refinery, the state means to float shares in the Haifa one on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Until now, the agreement seemed to be that the workers would each receive NIS 150,000 compensation for restructuring. But the workers are demanding more than a quarter-million each and assured income until age 67 for all employees.