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Social Workers Set to Strike Nationwide, Starting Sunday

Negotiations between social workers and the Finance Ministry have hit a brick wall, and a nationwide strike is set to begin Sunday.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/3/2011, 11:43 AM / Last Update: 3/3/2011, 12:35 PM

Negotiations between representatives of the social workers union and the Finance Ministry have hit a brick wall, and a nationwide strike is set to begin Sunday.

Details as to the demands and negotiations have been sparsely reported, though it is known that the starting positions were a workers' demand for a 40% overall pay hike, and Finance Ministry consent to only 14.25%. (Both numbers include 8% that the entire public sector will receive in any event.) Most of the news coverage on the issue has dealt only with statements by social workers’ representatives and dire warnings as to the grave ramifications of a strike. 

Ynet, for instance, reported that a strike by social workers, together with rising bread prices, could lead to protests in the Arab sector that could rival those in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. Ynet headlined an interview with Naail Bato, head of the Department for the Elderly in the Kafr Kana municipality and a member of the Israel Social Workers Union, in which he said, “If there is no response to the demands of the simple Arab public, we will see thousands of people in the streets demonstrating against the Israeli regime, similar to what happened in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.” Bato does not live in Judea or Samaria, but rather in the Galilee.

Some 20% of the Arab public in Israel – one out of every five households – is estimated to have files in local welfare departments around the country.

In Kiryat Ata, near Haifa, social workers are dealing with a murder-and-suicide that occurred earlier this week – but they say they will have no choice but to strike on Sunday if their demands are not met. One negotiator on behalf of the social workers told national media, “We have encountered a very rigid stance; the Finance Ministry is showing no flexibility... It will be hard, but if we have to, then we will strike, just like we did several years ago.”

Social workers' salaries have not been revised in 17 years, and some social workers are calling on their leaders not to suffice with a "meager 25% raise." Signs at a recent protest said, "A welfare state is not only a privilege, it also means obligations," "The Poverty Report - is Here!" and "You can't go to the store with 'holy work.'"