Local Gov't Crisis Could Be Back Again

The local authorities' financial crisis is about to happen all over again, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, Adi Eldar, warned yesterday.

A cash shortage in many local governments came to a head last year when many found themselves unable to pay even employee wages. This led to a general strike, which was brought to an abrupt end when National Labor Court President Judge Steven Adler brokered a settlement with the government. However, the Finance Ministry was adamant in making payments to struggling local municipalities conditional on their submitting a recovery program that includes general cutbacks.

Eldar, however, accused the Histadrut labor federation of jeopardizing the entire situation. "The financial crisis at the local authorities is about to happen all over again, because the Histadrut has placed obstacles prior to the signing of recovery plans in several deficit-burdened local authorities."

Eldar said the Histadrut refused to sign on plans calling for the dismissal of 5,000-7,000 local authorities workers, thus jeopardizing the councils' future. "Without the signature, the authorities' situation will become untenable."

Only 19 of 150 local authorities requiring central government financial assistance have signed on the recovery plans.

Clerks Union representative Leon Morozovsky said it is easy to point the blame on the workers, but "the court found that only the workers had been carrying the price of failure on their shoulders. The local councils are the ones refusing to carry out recovery agreements. Some of them are trying to cut wages in contravention of agreements, besides which many authorities have yet to pay employee wages for September or October 2004."