Israel's Public Sector Declares General Strike, Paralyzing Economy

Union federation demands the government improve working conditions of contract workers; strike to last four hours until 10 A.M. and to include trains, buses, universities, government ministries and municipalities.

A general strike took effect across Israel on Monday, although Labor Court President Nili Arad decided after a night of deliberations to limit it to only four hours. The strike began at 6:00 A.M. and will remain in effect until 10:00 A.M.

The Labor Court finished its deliberations in the early morning hours, but sent off its decision limiting the duration of the strike only after the strike began. The deliberations took over five hours, after talks between Ofer Eini, head of the Histadrut Labor Federation and Finance Minister Steinitz ended without a breakthrough.

General strike - Nir Keidar
Nir Keidar

The Histadrut, the umbrella organization for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, wants the government to hire some 250,000 contract workers, who have inferior working conditions than civil workers directly on government payrolls.

"Unfortunately, the treasury stuck to its position this time as well, and we leave this meeting with no good news," Eini said. He added that "the only thing that can stop us is the Labor Court – and we hope that doesn't happen."

The Histadrut said the strike would also include trains, buses, universities, government ministries and municipalities. Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv will close at 8:00 A.M. local time.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Histadrut to cancel the planned strike, which would wreak havoc on travelers and commuters.

"I believe it is possible to find a responsible and just solution for the issue of temporary laborers [supplied by employment agencies]," Netanyahu said on Army Radio.

"We must bring a solution that will not harm the Israeli economy at a time when there is a global shake-up in all the world's economies," he said. "There is no need to disrupt the lives of Israelis. We must not risk what we have achieved with much work."

A strike would cause some NIS 330 million damage a day to the economy.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: פגישת עיני והאוצר הסתיימה ללא תוצאות; ביה"ד לעבודה יכריע הלילה