Israeli District Court Judge Threatens to Quit Over Labor Dispute

Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin

The president of Central District Court in Petah Tikva, Judge Hila Gerstl, yesterday threatened to resign after the courts administration refused to honor promises made to her over court employees' conditions. In addition, the courts administration reached agreements with the employees of another courts without her knowledge.

There is a serious break between Gerstl and the head of the courts administration, Judge Michael Spitzer, said a source close to Gerstl.

Gerstl is considered close to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, and is respected by colleagues and lawyers. She was Neeman's candidate for courts administrator when the previous administrator Judge Moshe Gal left, but Spitzer was chosen after no agreement could be reached on her candidacy with Supreme Court President Asher Grunis.

The immediate cause for the dispute between Gerstl and Spitzer is the planned move next year of the Central District Court from its present home in Petah Tikva to its new permanent building in Lod next month, when the court returns from its summer recess. The employees in the court in Petah Tikva have been negotiating, with Gerstl's involvement, with the courts' administration on their conditions after the move to Lod.

The employees learned after the fact that at the same time negotiations were being held with them, the courts administration was also negotiating with the employees of the Family Court in Kfar Saba, who will be moving into the court building in Petah Tikva they are vacating. The Kfar Saba court employees were promised much better conditions relating to certain salary benefits - as opposed to those promised to the Central District Court's workers.

In a meeting with Spitzer yesterday, Gerstl told him that court employees had lost faith in the courts administration, said a source close to Gerstl. She also told Spitzer she intended on quitting in light of the crisis.

"The courts administration conducted negotiations at the same time with two groups of employees, and one group was promised significantly better conditions than the other," said a source in the court close to Gerstl. "It is clear that Gerstl feels hurt and there is a very big crisis of confidence between [Gerstl and] Spitzer, and it is doubtful whether it is possible to solve it," said the source.

The courts administration did not reply to Haaretz by press time yesterday.

Judge Hila Gerstl.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum