When the Treasury Capitulates

By granting certain sectors better working conditions while withholding them from others, the Finance Ministry is sending the message that only those who can cause damage, get the money.

A few days ago, the workers at Israel Railways signed a new collective agreement with the Finance Ministry. The wage agreement is part of the implementation of the structural reform at the railways and includes unprecedented salary benefits in the form of generous grants and large salary hikes.

There are also a number of clauses that are difficult to comprehend. For example, the clause that states that anyone who works for 15 years in the railways will be considered, for purposes of salary, as if he holds an academic degree, and a new worker of the second generation will be considered as if he were of the first generation and therefore will be awarded all the improved conditions being granted to the veterans.

This week it also transpired that some of the workers at Ashdod port are expected to get a large wage increment of some NIS 3,500 a month per worker. All of this when the average salary of the port employees is NIS 25,000 a month, with some earning more than NIS 50,000 a month - more than the prime minister is paid.

The Finance Ministry is of course talking about a reform in the port that will improve the work there. There is always talk of a reform that is merely a cover-up for salary hikes. After all, two years ago the port workers received a raise of thousands of shekels in return for a "reform," and the big "reform" agreement signed with the port workers in 2005 when Benjamin Netanyahu was finance minister is still clearly etched in our memories. At that time, they received large grants and salary increases in return for industrial quiet and partial privatization - promises which they did not of course keep.

Then there are the workers at the Israel Electric Corporation that have the government at their mercy because of their control over a vital commodity. They prevent the implementation of efficiency measures and flexibility in the company, which has an astronomical debt of NIS 70 billion - a debt that the entire public will be required to pay one of these days.

As opposed to all these despicable capitulations, the treasury demonstrates amazing power to withstand the demands of the nurses. In their case, the average wage is some NIS 14,000 per month but the finance ministry insists on claiming that they cannot give them any additional payments across the board since this is an election period and the budget is in a very bad state. That is to say: those who can cause damage, get the money. Those who threaten disturbances and demonstrations, win. Those who take part in the Likud primaries in organized fashion, profit. Everything is a matter of force, not of justice, not of morals, and not of what's important. Just have control of the country's main switch.