Histadrut Hopes All Workers Chip in to Help Northerners

Histadrut labor federation chair Ofer Eini convened labor leaders yesterday in order to discuss ways to aid residents of the north. The group decided that the Histadrut should set up a joint fund with the Finance Ministry and business sector representatives.

According to the decision, all workers in central and southern Israel would donate one day's salary to the fund, and the treasury and employers would contribute the same amount. The fund would be managed by a retired justice, and a committee would designate the objectives, such as financial assistance for people whose homes were damaged or helping the unemployed to look for jobs.

Eini and Manufacturers Association president Shraga Brosh expressed confidence that at the least, public-sector employers in bodies such as government ministries, local governments and state-owned corporations would participate in the fund, which would bring the campaign to over NIS 500 million.

But if the proposal takes off, it could become the first stage of a collective agreement that would cover all organized workers - and the Histadrut hopes that the agreement will eventually be expanded to all employees, including nonunionized private-sector workers, via administrative orders.

However, workers earning very low wages would most likely be exempted from the deal.

The fund is intended to assist both residents of the north who were harmed by the war in Lebanon and residents of Sderot, who have suffered ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza.

The labor leaders also decided to hold the workers' sport festival, the Sportiada, in the northern city of Tiberius instead of in Eilat. 8,000 workers will fill 5,000 hotels rooms for five days as part of the event. Eini also asked the unions to switch their employees' organized vacations to the north.