Courts stall Israeli general strike

Hit - transport and air travel
Hit - transport and air travel

The general public sector strike called by the Histadrut Labor Federation was halted Thursday morning after the National Labor Court ordered a suspension, but unpaid municipal employees might still have to wait another week to receive their long-due salaries.

Submitted by Ed on December 2, 2006

"I really hope that the government won't force us to renew a general public strike. The coming week will reveal whether or not the government has the ability to put an end, once and for all, to the disgraceful non-payment of salaries," said Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini. "The court has, in fact, recognized the legitimacy of the strike and left us an option to strike again if the problem is not solved."

National Labor Court President Judge Steve Adler ruled that the Finance Ministry must pay the local authorities' salaries by Thursday, except for those that were disputed, such as the religious councils, which would hold intensive discussions throughout the week to find a solution to the salary issue.

On the issue regarding the lack of transfers into pension funds, both sides were ordered to sign a draft agreement within the next seven days setting out the guidelines for a resolution. Eini, however, failed in his request for introducing sanctions, which would have been imposed on mayors who did not pay salaries.

The Histadrut Labor Federation on Wednesday morning declared a general public strike over non-payment to local authority employees, shutting down all government offices and bringing outgoing traffic at the country's airports and seaports to a halt.

According to estimates, the strike cost the economy between NIS 350 million and NIS 500m. a day.

After a long night of negotiations Wednesday between Eini, Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson and Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, which brought about the court's decision to end the strike, hundreds of thousands of workers returned to work on Thursday albeit with delays.

On Wednesday morning, the Manufacturers Association and the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce appealed to the National Labor Court to order an end to the general strike and to summon all relevant parties to an urgent discussion on the matter.

"What is strange is that the government did not appeal to the court and we had to take the responsibility of bringing employees back to work," said Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers' Association.

In the petition, the Manufacturers Association also asked the court to order the Finance Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the local government to reach a complete solution, in agreement with the Histadrut Labor Federation, within the next seven days.