Unemployed Get Benefits, Despite Employment Bureau Strike

Despite a strike by the country's 80 state-run Employment Bureaus, the workers' union decided Wednesday to give the National Insurance Institute information about people registered as unemployed so that they can receive their payments by Passover.

Earlier Wednesday, Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert instructed the management of the Employment Bureaus to ask the National Labor Court to resolve their workers' strike, Army Radio reported.

The union of the Employment Bureaus, including those who serve degree-holding job-seekers, shut down Tuesday and will remain closed "indefinitely." The union went on strike with the approval of the national Histadrut labor federation.

As a result of the strike, job-seekers will not be able to get referrals to workplaces and won't get approvals for unemployment compensation. Medical panels that serve as appeal boards for people who refuse work on grounds that they are unfit will also not meet.

Aharon Hutabeli, chairman of the union of employment bureau workers, said at the Tel Aviv meeting where the strike was declared that there were several reasons for the strike.

The first is that the Wisconsin plan, a welfare-to-work program that will be run by outside, private contractors operating employment centers, will harm bureau workers. The workers are demanding written guarantees that the plan's execution will not lead to firings from the employment bureaus.

The strike is also meant to protest the decision to change the organizational structure of the employment service, from "regions" to "districts," a move meant to reduce the number of senior management officials. The workers say that will narrow the opportunities for promotion.