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Impasse in Negotiations Means General Strike Continues

Despite earlier optimism, an impasse in negotiations means general strike will continue at least until Sunday.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/10/2012, 1:17 AM

Strike (file)
Strike (file)
Flash 90

Despite hopes on Thursday morning that the general strike launched by the Histadrut labor union would end within hours, a lockdown in negotiations on Thursday evening means the strike will continue at least until Sunday.

National Labor Court President, Justice Nili Arad, has summoned the representatives of the Histadrut and the Treasury for a hearing on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. Israel time.

After two days of negotiations, the talks reached an impasse on Thursday evening. According to Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, “The Treasury withdrew from certain articles. In addition, they are asking for quiet for four years, something that didn’t come up during negotiations and means that contract workers will not be allowed to fight for their rights at work.”

Eini added, “The Treasury needs to give up on that demand. There is no way I’ll sign this section, which is rude and was introduced at the eleventh hour. If the Treasury does not give up this section, the conflict will not end and the strike will not end.”

Earlier on Thursday it was reported that the parties had signed two separate agreements, for public and private sector workers, improving the salaries and work conditions of contract workers in both sectors.

The strike had been called over the government's refusal to commit to absorbing thousands of contract workers – workers who do not have union contracts and do not receive the same salary and benefits as “regular” workers – as permanent hires.

Reports said that, according to the deal, some 800 contract workers in government offices would be given permanent status. The workers' salaries will be increased significantly, and they will be given pensions and other benefits. In addition, contract workers in the private sector would be given raises and benefits, although they will not be offered regular employment positions. The government also agreed to increase the number of supervisors who visit businesses to ensure that laws on work conditions were being fulfilled properly.

However, due to the impasse, the strike will enter its third day on Friday. The only exceptions will be the Ben Gurion Airport and Israel’s sea ports, which will continue to operate as usual.

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry announced on Thursday evening that representatives of the Treasury and the Histadrut will meet at noon Friday to continue negotiations. 

The ministry said two sides proposed an innovative agreement for contract workers, with an emphasis on maintainence and cleaning staff. The Treasury issued a statement that said, "We need to finalize the details to reach an agreement and make sure that there is quiet in labor relations because of these issues." The statement continued, "We have no intention of compromising the ability of organized labor in general and disadvantaged groups in particular." 

The ministry called on the union to stop the strike, explaining that "given the progress, there is no room to continue the strike and harm the public in Israel."