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General Strike Threatens to Shut Down Israel Monday

A labor court injunction is all that stands in the way of the first general strike in years. Banks and the airport will be shut down.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/6/2011, 11:12 AM

Ofer Eini
Ofer Eini
Flash 90

A labor court injunction is all that stands in the way of the first general strike in years. Banks, schools, transportation – including Ben Gurion airport – and government offices will be shut down unless the court interferes.

The Manufacturers’ Association and The Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations have filed an appeal to the court to issue a no-strike order, saying that a strike would cause extensive damage to the economy. The court is meeting on Sunday.

The Histadrut national labor union has called the strike to protest conditions for workers contracted by manpower services,a method employers often use to avoid paying benefits and higher wages.

Labor union leader Ofer Eini charged that the Finance Ministry has maintained an “uncompromising stance,” while Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu insisted Sunday morning that a solution can be worked out without a strike, which Eini added will last for an unlimited time.

He said the government’s announcement that it will not directly hire 100,000 contracted employers and thus allow their unionization, represents an increasingly “shameful phenomenon that has taken root in Israeli society.”

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz argued that liberal countries such as Finland, The Netherlands and Sweden contract cleaning workers and guards.

With the ball in the Prime Minister’s court, the threatened strike is shaping up as a major political battle testing Eini’s clout and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s view of his power and potential political strength.

Eini faces a new election for the leadership of the Histadrut Labor Union but insisted he does not need a strike to win.