Histadrut, Manufacturers Association to Negotiate First Agreement Since 1995 on Workers' Conditions

The last time an agreement of this type was signed was 1995, when Haim Ramon was at the helm of the Histadrut.

The Histadrut labor federation and the Manufacturers Association of Israel agreed in principle to commence negotiations to sign a framework agreement regarding employment conditions of workers in the private business sector. The last time an agreement of this type was signed was 1995, when Haim Ramon was at the helm of the Histadrut.

According to plan, Histadrut chair Ofer Eini and Manufacturers Association president Shraga Brosh will meet at the beginning of March to declare the start of negotiations. Immediately thereafter the negotiation teams, consisting of professional association heads representing workers and equivalent management from the Manufacturers Association, will meet.

The Histadrut would like all bodies who are members of the coordination office of the Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations to participate in talks - not just the Manufacturers Association, which represents only a small share of the business sector in terms of numbers of employees and production. The coordination office also included the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, which represents 64 percent of the business sector capacity, The Association of Contractors & Builders in Israel, The Israel Hotel Association, and The Association of Craft and Industry in Israel.

In the coming days, the joint forum of the coordination office will meet, headed by Brosh, to discuss the offer that all membership bodies enter negotiations with the goal of signing a framework agreement with the Histadrut. However, at least one body, the Chambers of Commerce, is likely to object to the move.

Acting Histadrut trade union chair Jihad Akel said yesterday that the agreement to be signed would improve labor conditions in the business sector by adding vacation days, raising health supplement grants, setting higher wages for overtime and raising in practice the minimum wage by divesting it of certain components currently used in its calculation.

In contrast, Manufacturers Association labor branch head Avi Barak said that employers expect the agreement will provide them with, among other things, greater flexibility in managing factories according to work hours.