'Strike Lite' / Eini Won, but Nothing Was Resolved

Histadrut chair Ofer Eini has emerged as the big winner from the latest strike confrontation.

He has rehabilitated his image, which took a battering three weeks ago when he called off the strike in support of the unpaid workers. Such accusations of caving in are usually a death blow for any workers' leader.

That disgrace has now been erased. It was easy, because Ehud Olmert did not solve the problem in the last three weeks and the public was ripe for the strike.

Eini contrived to carry out a strike-lite, which didn't do too much harm and didn't really shut down the airport. This too is to his credit.

But it doesn't mean that the problem of withholding the unpaid workers' wages has been solved. On the contrary.

Apparently there's profit in negligence - municipalities that never paid their workers will get support grants of some NIS 200 million from the government for their recovery. Those who did the right thing, collected taxes and paid on time, will get nothing.

The conclusion is clear: It pays to exceed the budget. It pays not to pay wages. The result is even clearer: Immediately after receiving the present grants, the recalcitrant mayors will embark on a new bout of excessive spending that will lead to new wage delays, resulting in a new crisis in a few months. Nothing has been solved. The interior minister says he will prevent the process from repeating itself with legislation stipulating that any authority head who fails to pay two months' wages to more than 25 percent of his authority's employees will be ousted immediately.

What a joke. There have been attempts in the past to merge authorities or restrict municipal heads. But the Knesset members, who are elected in primaries, are aware of the local authority heads' power as vote contractors. Therefore, such legislation has no chance of being enacted by the Knesset. In any case, dismissing a mayor is a lengthy process. There's a hearing, an inquiry committee and an appeal to the High Court of Justice - which is extremely loath to giving people the boot.

The amendment Bar-On proposes is quite strange. Why wait for two months? Why should the salaries of more than 25 percent of the workers be held over before action is taken? Why not say that every wage holdover, even for one day and even of one worker, is cause for dismissal? Why not stipulate that a mayor who doesn't pay his employees' wages must pay a high daily fine from his own pocket? Because it's all politics. Bar-On, Olmert, even Hirchson, are all too familiar with the mayors' political clout. They too don't want to annoy them too much.