Trains Back on Track but Garbage Piles Up as Strike Continues

Strike, which was called by the Histadrut, has paralyzed Israel's public sector since Wednesday.

The Histadrut labor federation announced on Saturday that train services will resume on Sunday, despite not formally ending its nationwide general strike over the conditions of government-hired contract workers.

Work is also set to resume at Ben-Gurion International Airport, although other public sectors such as garbage collection are expected to remain on strike throughout the day.

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Furthermore, Egged bus drivers are expected to join the strike, in protest against conditions of contract workers.

Garbage piling up on the streets of Tel Aviv.
Alex Levac

The talks between the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut resumed late on Saturday night and continued all night long but agreement was not reached, the two sides will meet on Sunday at 10 A.M. before National Labor Court Judge Nili Arad, who will decide whether to allow the strike to continue, either fully or partially.

The strike, which was called by the Histadrut, has paralyzed Israel's public sector since Wednesday.

The Histadrut is demanding that the state hire subcontracted workers directly, especially cleaning workers.

About half the garbage in the big cities has not been collected since Wednesday. (In some communities, garbage is picked up by private firms. ) In the greater Tel Aviv area alone, more than 10,000 tons of refuse line the streets.

The rain has increased decomposition of food waste. In addition to the stench, the garbage produces bacteria, parasites and disease-producing rodents.

The fact that some households, and particularly businesses in major commercial areas, are not recycling packaging nor sealing their garbage properly has exacerbated the situation.

Talks broke down Friday over two main issues: which subcontracted workers would be hired directly by employers; and the treasury's demand that there be no strikes for the next four years over the issue of the outsourced employees.

Of the hundreds of thousands of subcontracted workers in Israel, only about 800 are likely to be directly hired, mostly in the health-care system.

No attempt was made to deal with outsourced social workers, psychologists, teachers and others, which could mean they might strike next week, even if an agreement is signed.

Cleaners and security guards will not be hired directly in most cases, but they will receive a 20 percent hike in wages and social benefits, increasing their pay to that of their counterparts who work directly for the government.

The Finance Ministry's budget chief, Gal Hershkovitz, said last night at the start of the meeting with Histadrut representatives: "We have reached an excellent agreement with the Histadrut, which includes a significant improvement in wages, conditions and enforcement for cleaners and security guards."

Hershkovitz also said the government's no-strike demand over outsourcing for four years was limited to cleaners and security guards.

The director of the International Air Transport Association in Israel, Kobi Zussman, told Haaretz the frequent labor sanctions at Ben-Gurion airport were severely damaging to Israel's international air travel, "which already faces a challenging business climate."