Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Sivan 5764 - June 16, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Religious Council Workers' Salaries Included in Withholding Law
By Eliezer Rauchberger and Ittim

At the end of a long day of marathon meetings the Knesset Finance Committee decided to include the religious council employees in new legislation to regulate salary payments for local authority employees.

A proposal approved in a first reading in a Knesset plenum a few days earlier did not include the religious council workers, but chareidi MKs responded with staunch protest. "This is an act of discrimination," MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni cried out. During subsequent Finance Committee meetings to prepare the legislation for second and third readings they reiterated the crisis religious council workers are facing and insisted that they be included in the proposed law in order to solve the problem.

The proposed law would allow any local authority that agrees to take part in a recovery program and appoints a special accountant, to open a bank account immune from being attached or frozen, to which salary funds would be transferred. Since most of the local authorities are in deficit, if there is any money in their accounts, one of their creditors will seize it. To prevent this from happening with money that is allocated for workers' salaries, a special law is being passed.

The committee meetings continued all day due to opposition by various figures. The banks voiced firm opposition and even threatened to appeal to the High Court and to choke the local authorities by blocking all credit routes. The banks claimed circumventing them should be out of the question because doing so would undermine economic guidelines and their lawful priority as creditors.

As part of attempts to reach a compromise, Committee Chairman Avraham Hirshzon interrupted the meetings several times to allow meetings with bank association representatives, but the various sides were unable to find middle ground even late into the night.

Local authority representatives also opposed the law, claiming it would not solve the problem since the law determines salaries would only be paid to workers at authorities that enter a recovery program and appoint a special accountant. They demanded the law be simplified to just a few lines saying funds would be transferred to the local authorities to pay employees' salaries and that attachments could not be placed on these funds without mentioning a recovery program.

Chareidi MKs also voiced opposition, insisting religious council workers be included in the law. After hours of meetings and at the end of a conference held in the committee chairman's chamber it was agreed to include the religious council workers in the law by writing a similar clause stating that salary funds transferred to religious councils cannot have attachments placed on them. The law was approved late at night at a meeting attended by Hirshzon, Interior Minister Poraz and MKs Rabbi Gafni, Rabbi Litzman, Dehan and Brizon and approved the next day to allow the Finance Ministry to transfer the salary funds immediately.

A few days later Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the crises at the local authorities and the religious councils would come to an end with the passage of the law in the Knesset, saying the crisis at the local authorities had exceeded all reasonable limits. Every ministry laid blame on another ministry, leaving the workers without their salaries.

"The legislative system did not allow us to resolve the predicament and channel funds to people who work and suffer from not receiving their salaries," said Netanyahu. "I have reached the conclusion that the only way to overcome the laws is through a law. I asked for a law agreeable to all of the ministries to be brought to me within 24 hours. It was done. I said we would bring it to the cabinet [meeting] the following Sunday. This, too, was done. I said we would legislate it through lightening-fast legislation. This was done yesterday. I believe that within a few days we will see the money flow to the salaries that people have been yearning [to receive] for many months."


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