Netanyahu Scores Last-minute Deal to Stop Crippling Nation-wide Strike

Agreement comes after late night meeting called by PM Netanyahu with finance and interior ministers and the Union of Local Authorities.

The Israeli government reached a last minute deal with the Union of Local Authorities in the early hours of Sunday morning, preventing what would have been the authorities' largest strike ever to dat.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting with the finance and interior ministers and the Union of Local Authorities late Saturday, in an eleventh-hour effort to avert the strike, which had been set to begin Sunday morning.

netanyahu -  Itzik Ben-Malki - November 19 2010
Itzik Ben-Malki

The strike would have shut down high schools, garbage collection, and the issuing of parking tickets among other services.

All of Israel's local authorities were expected to begin the open-ended strike Sunday except Jerusalem, Haifa and the Haifa suburb of Nesher. The action would have taken place despite efforts to head it off on Friday at a meeting between the ULA and the interior and finance ministers.

In the negotiations, treasury officials accused ULA chairman Shlomo Buhbut of wanting to strike at all costs. For their part, the ULA blames Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for not meeting any of their demands regarding education funding, social welfare funding, equalization payments to municipalities with revenue shortfalls and water rates.

The Education Ministry called on schools to open on Sunday despite the strike, and teachers' unions instructed teachers to report to work. At elementary schools, teachers are state employees, but many junior-high and high school teachers are employed by local authorities.

School security guards are also employed by local authorities and the Teachers' Union reported Saturday that the police have instructed schools to provide guards despite the strike. The union, which represents mostly elementary school teachers, said if guards are not provided, classes would not be held. Regional council staff would join the strike, said the union, but would keeping the school systems in their communities open. For the first time, special education operations at the local authorities would have been halted.