Port Strike Ends After Hirchson Vows to Pay Nazareth Workers

Histadrut resumes seaport activity three hours after strike announced; had threatened to expand strike.

Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson on Thursday vowed to personally ensure the transfer of funds from the treasury to the Nazareth municipality to cover the salaries and social benefits long overdue to city employees.

In response to Hirchson's announcement, the Histadrut labor federation resumed activity at seaports around the country. Port employees in Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat had gone on strike three hours before, demanding that Nazareth employees be paid their due in full.

The full salaries of Nazareth municipal employees have been withheld for months. Some employees have received partial salary, while others have not received any payment at all. As a result, a number of municipal employees have had to turn to the same welfare services of which, in some cases, they are employed.

Hirchson's pledge to transfer funds to the municipality came after Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini threatened to expand the strike to include Ben Gurion airport and other sectors of the economy.

Histadrut had declared a labor dispute on July 12 after thousands of local authority employees were denied their salaries in full. Hours after the labor dispute was declared, the war broke out in Lebanon and the Histadrut withdrew its threat to paralyze the economy.

An agreement was reached about a week ago between the heads of the treasury, the Histadrut and the local governments according to which all municipal and local council employees would receive their long-overdue salaries immediately. Nazareth employees, however, remained unpaid.

"The situation became unbearable. Employees have suffered from their wages being held for between two to six months. Most of these employees earn NIS 4,000 a month. They should not be abused," senior Histadrut sources said Thursday.

The Histadrut said some employees had received their salaries on time, but were not paid various social benefits owed to them.