Union Declares Dispute at Arcadi Gaydamak's New Asset: Bikur Holim Hospital

The Histadrut labor federation has declared a labor dispute at Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem, after negotiations between hospital representatives and a delegation representing the hospital's new owner, Arcadi Gaydamak, deadlocked. Gaydamak is to assume official control of the hospital from November 1, after winning a tender to buy the facility.

Gaydamak's representatives, in talks with the Histadrut labor federation's pension department chairman, Dorit Tene-Perchik, said they object to the uber-union's demand to maintain the system in place for firing employees (dismissal is contingent on the formal approval of the workers' union) and the demand to adhere to employment terms customary at government-owned hospitals.

Bikur Holim has been in the process of liquidation for more than four years, after the ultra-Orthodox organization that had managed the institution found itself in financial straits. The liquidation proceedings are being conducted in the Jerusalem District Court.

The court recently approved the sale of the hospital to Gaydamak for $32 million. The businessman is expected to gain ownership of the institution on November 1, 2007. Gaydamak's representatives have undertaken to employ all 55 workers, and not to change their terms of employment. They have also promised the court to draw up a comprehensive pension plan for all of the employees, and increase their salaries by 2 percent.

Gaydamak's envoys agreed to the Histadrut's demand to secure the employees' rights in a new collective agreement, but talks are now deadlocked. Jerusalem District Histadrut Chairman Dan Ben-Shitrit said, "Despite our serious intention to reach a new collective employment agreement in the hospital, we have come up against impossible stances on the part of the buyer's representatives."