Financial Damage From One-day Strike Estimated at NIS 170m

Business sector representatives estimate the cost of yesterday's nationwide strike at NIS 170 million. Manufacturer's Association president Shraga Brosh, who brokered talks between Histadrut labor federation chair Ofer Eini and Prime Minister's Office director general Raanan Dinur yesterday, said the fact the strike started three hours late at 9:00 am and was not a total shutdown reduced damages from a possible hundreds of millions of shekels for each day of a complete general strike.

"Although only the public sector was on strike, it impacted the private sector due to the inclusion of the Haifa and Ashdod ports where longshoremen didn't load and unload ships," Brosh said. According to him, direct financial damages from the strike were reduced by a Histadrut exceptions committee which voted to allow cargo planes with fresh agricultural cargo and at least 10 passenger planes to take off.

Brosh stood up for the national labor union's decision to strike yesterday, unlike Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce president Uriel Lynn, who said workers shouldn't have struck. "The state could have presented the outline of the solution to the crisis a week ago. Why did it take until the other night, just prior to the outbreak of a nationwide strike, to resolve the local government salary crisis?" Brosh asked.

Dinur told TheMarker last night that despite yesterday's agreement between the Histadrut and the state to end the strike, there is real concern another salary crisis could erupt within a year as municipal workers in dozens of localities are still not paid. "The financial infrastructure of many local governments is shaky," Dinur said. Some town halls have real existential problems, he added. "There is no justification for 266 local governments, since some are unable to provide services. Many must be merged, but even that step is insufficient. Sanctions against dysfunctional local governments must be worsened, especially those withholding salaries."

According to the agreement Dinur drafted yesterday, the state paid municipal workers in 20 locales. The Histadrut will provide loans to the employees of 10 governments that are in particularly problematic situations through a special fund. The state promised to change regulations so it can fire the mayor of any town that fails to pay 25 percent of its workers for two or more months.