Lawyers at Prosecutor's Office Set to Go on Strike

A strike would cancel hundreds of court sessions, as more than 800 attorneys would not come to work.

Attorneys at the State Prosecutor's Office nationwide were set to launch a general strike today after negotiations with the treasury stalemated.

A strike would cancel hundreds of court sessions, as more than 800 attorneys would not come to work. One such hearing is a session in the trial of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose prosecutor is Deputy Jerusalem District Prosecutor Uri Corb.

The attorneys union, headed by Boaz Goldberg, called the strike yesterday after the Finance Ministry's wages director, Ilan Levin, rejected a demand for a 24.5 percent wage raise, as doctors received last year following arbitration.

Levin said at yesterday's meeting that the attorneys' wages are among the highest in the civil service, even higher than a ministry director general's.

The treasury would consider "some" wage raise if the attorneys agreed to several changes in their work, Levin said. In any case, they would receive an increase of 6.25 percent over the next three and a half years, as would all civil servants following the agreement between the treasury and the Histadrut labor federation two weeks ago.

Levin warned the attorneys that if they went on strike they would lose the support of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who has promised to intervene and try to solve the dispute in the next two weeks.

"The treasury has shown it is not interested in real negotiations with us," said the secretary of the attorneys union, Gadi Shilo.

He said Levin had not addressed any of the attorneys' demands.

Shilo said the attorneys earn less than their colleagues at private law firms and most of them do not receive travel expenses and mobile-phone expenses.

The union is demanding a wage raise and more senior-attorney positions; this would allow mid-ranking lawyers to move ahead and improve their wages.

During the open-ended strike the attorneys will not attend court and High Court of Justice hearings. They will also not file civil suits, criminal charges, depositions, summaries or appeals. They will also not attend debates in statutory committees such as the parole committee and planning and building committees.

The union has set up a committee to examine and approve attorneys' work in extremely unusual cases.

A Finance Ministry official said Levin had made clear at the meeting that the state respects the attorneys' work and wants to advance several of their demands such as car expenses and promotions.

He said Levin had urged the attorneys to respond to Neeman's request and continue intensive negotiations over the next two weeks.

The attorneys already held a warning strike in April this year and Goldberg warned then that they will intensify their measures and even go on a general strike unless the justice and finance ministries negotiate with them on demands they have been making for several years.

The lawyers declared a labor dispute as a prelude to a strike four years ago, but the justice and finance ministries have refused to negotiate with them all this time, Goldberg said.