Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Teves 5761 - January 17, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Histadrut Threatens General Strike Wednesday
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

The Finance Ministry and the Histadrut were working to bridge the gaps between them, but if that fails the Histadrut has threatened to launch a general strike, possibly starting as soon as Wednesday morning.

Histadrut chairman Amir Peretz and Trade Union division head Shlomo Shani are scheduled to announce on Tuesday afternoon their intent to bring the economy to a halt. If their threat is carried out, the entire public sector will be immobilized, including airports, seaports, banks, universities, government offices, and municipal services. Bezeq and Israel Electric Corporation workers would impose sanctions as well. However, Histadrut sources told the press that there is a good chance that the strike would be postponed.

The Histadrut is demanding the renewal of wage agreements for 1999-2000, and the reevaluation of wage scales in the public sector. Though formally this is not a wage hike, effectively it is equal to a 16 percent salary hike for state workers. The Histadrut is also asking that it be retroactive to January 1999. In addition, the Histadrut wants a halt to the erosion in pensioners' stipends.

After meeting with Histadrut officials yesterday morning, Treasury wage chief Yuval Rachlevsky said their demands were "unrealistic." He warned the labor union that their sanctions would cause undue damage to the economy, already battered by the security situation. The fact that there was no inflation in 2000 means that there is no basis for an increase in wages. Caving in to the Histadrut's demands, Rachlevsky said, would lead to a total collapse of national budget framework.

The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce estimated damages from such a strike would total NIS 40m. daily. "The strike will especially hurt foreign trade and Israel's reputation," said Federation director Yossi Shustak.

The Treasury has offered public-sector workers a one-time stipend of NIS 700-1200, depending on their salary, with higher stipends going to lower-paid employees. The sum would cover the years 1999 and 2000, and total NIS 250m.

The Treasury proposals include a 0.75% wage increase in workers' base salaries, effective immediately for 2001, for a cost to the government of NIS 500 million. In return the Treasury wants the unions to agree to refrain from any labor sanctions in 2001.

Oded Tira, president of the Manufacturers' Association, urged the Histadrut not to strike. He said a public sector strike would cause a loss of production and damage to the business sector that would total NIS 25 million each day.

"Striking against the economy during domestic recession, security and political instability, and a slowdown in the United States is a harmful action that would hurt the economy and the workers, contrary to the Histadrut's declared goal of protecting them," Tira said.

Labor officials always feel that an election campaign is an opportune time for them to strike since the government is especially sensitive at that time to show the public that things are good. Also, the government may not be around to have to face the consequences if it loses control. This leads the government to offer a more generous package than it might otherwise offer.


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