Israeli health company freezes redundancies after strike

After Clalit Health Services' management decided on yesterday (Thursday 26th) to freeze its plan to dismiss 1,000 employees after Passover, some 30,000 workers at its hospitals and community clinics suspended their 24-hour strike and struggle against the country's largest health fund.

Submitted by Ed on March 27, 2009

This was agreed by Histadrut Labor Federation secretary-general Ofer Eini, Clalit director-general Eli Depes and union head Prosper Ben-Hami after management was unable to get restraining orders from a labor court against the workers.

The number of patients in Clalit community and hospital outpatient clinics around the country was reduced, as most had heard of the impending strike. Those who did go to clinics were treated by Clalit's 6,000 physicians, who did not walk off the job because all Israel Medical Association members are committed not to strike until their wage contract expires in about two years.

Explaining its original dismissal plans, Clalit management had said it could not afford to keep all workers because an arbitration agreement announced late last year will gradually raise the salaries of all public-sector doctors around the country, not only in Clalit but also in state-owned and voluntary organization hospitals and community facilities.

The union head insisted that even now, the number of job slots in Clalit facilities is inadequate and that firing 1/36th of the staff would harm the largest health fund's members and put an additional burden on the remaining employees.

The union did not apply the one-day strike to Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva or the Beit Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital in Ra'anana and hospital staffers took care of all life-and-death situations.

Clalit management, which seeks efficiency measures to cut expenses, called the labor action a "wildcat strike" but said it hoped negotiations with the workers would somehow lead to a resolution of the problem.

The Israel Medical Association defending the doctors' "right" to a gradual wage increase and said that the arbitration process on doctors' wages took eight long years until it was implemented by the government. IMA chairman Dr. Yoram Blachar said that the "attempt to erect a barrier between the doctors and other workers will never succeed."