Strike on Hold but Threat Remains, Says Union

But government must announce an immediate solution to the problem of owed wages in 40 cities

Histadrut labor federation chiefs have decided not to hold the nationwide strike planned for today but say they will make good on their threat if the government fails to announce an immediate solution to the problem of salary debts in 40 local authorities.

The money is due to 7,000 to 8,000 employees. One hundred authorities have also failed to make deposits to pension and education funds, even though the employees' contribution has been debited to their salaries.

Histadrut head Ofer Eini said that if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert fails to take steps, his organization would hold a strike this week.

Unions in the public sector, including sea port, airport, government offices, local authorities, National Insurance, Employment Services, postal services and trains have been instructed by the Histadrut to "be prepared for a strike on short notice".

In consultations conducted between Eini, union heads and Histadrut legal staff, it was decided to "give the government an extension of a day or two to announce allocation of financial resources that will solve the problem of unpaid salaries to local authority employees."

In a message to Olmert, Eini said: "The nationwide crisis of payments of salaries and pension fund deposits to local authority employees has continued for years. The intolerable state that we have reached, in which the failure to pay salaries to those who carry out their daily work is an enduring norm, cannot continue.

"All government echelons that have handled the problem to date have failed dismally. In spite of repeated promises given to myself and to the National Labor Court by the Minister of Finance and Minister of Interior, nothing has been done to solve this serious problem."

In addition, employees at the Israel Electricity Company (IEC) filed an appeal to the National Labor Court on the decision by Haifa Labor Court Judge Rami Cohen to prevent them from striking until March 11. The workers claim that the government has violated the agreement according to which employees would refrain from sanctions, and the government would defer the legislative proceedings needed for electricity reforms.

The decision to approach the National Labor Court was made by IEC employees after the state prosecutor told a Haifa court yesterday that it won't comply with the court's request to defer legislative proceedings.