Hotel Deal May Soften Blow to Unpaid Religious Councils

The wages of 20 local religious councils throughout the country are not being paid on time, and some of the councils are delaying deposits to provident and pension funds. But this doesn't prevent senior personnel in these councils from enjoying a family vacation at subsidized prices at the Kinar Hotel on the shores of Lake Kinneret.

From an internal memorandum addressed to religious council heads and secretaries and distributed among councils, it appears that a combined seminar and vacation will be held January 11-14. The cost for a couple, Thursday until Saturday evening, is NIS 1,510, out of which NIS 1,000 will be paid by the religious councils, and the balance by the participants themselves. Other options are available to participants, including a stay of only one day (Saturday), at a cost of NIS 600, of which only NIS 290 is to be born by the participants. Payment in three installments is also offered.

The National Labor Tribunal yesterday conducted a hearing on the withholding of wages, which, according to the Histadrut labor federation, is happening at 22 local authorities and 20 religious councils. The court president, Judge Steve Adler, criticized Attorney General Menachem Mazuz for failing to instigate criminal proceedings against the heads of the authorities delaying payment of wages to their employees. "While the attorney general is investigating corruption charges in government institutions, we hear nothing about criminal charges against heads of local authorities, under whose jurisdiction remain debts that raise suspicions of criminal involvement," he said. Adler said he may subpoena Mazuz.

The Justice Ministry responded that Mazuz demanded that Interior Ministry director general Ram Belnikov, provide data on the withholding of wages a week ago that will enable the attorney general to take legal steps against certain local authority heads.

A spokesman for the Histadrut said the number of religious councils in which wages have not been paid in full will increase to 35, after the government announced it would not transfer further funding to religious councils until next week. As a result, December wages will apparently not be paid in these councils.