Officials met late Tuesday night in the hope of reaching an agreement to avert the costly strike, but Histadrut national labor federation leader Ofer Eini, Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson and Interior Minister Roni Bar-On could not come to an agreement.

The most immediate effects of the strike are being felt at Ben-Gurion International Airport, where employees are not allowing outgoing flights. The move has left travelers stranded in the airport, many without alternate arrangements. In addition, only flights that are already in the air will be permitted to land.

However, hope for a quick end to the strike was provided when the Union of Business Offices turned to the National Labor Court, asking for an immediate back-to-work order. The Union says the strike costs the national economy half-a-billion shekels each day.

Given an Inch, Tried to Take a Foot

British Airways received permission to allow a flight crew that had overslept to fly home, but the company then tried to allow passengers onto the flight as well - and permission to take off was then rescinded by the strikers.

Among the closed services are the seaports, Bank of Israel, National Insurance Institute, local municipal councils, religious councils, train service, employment services, oil refineries, and more. The Bezeq phone company, Israel Electric, and the Postal Authority are offering only partial service.

A prolonged strike at the seaports can become very costly, halting commerce and paralyzing imports and exports. A three-week ports strike in 2004 cost the economy some 4 billion shekels (almost $900 million).

At Issue

The strike broke out because of the continuing failure of the municipal councils to pay their employees in a regular fashion. Over the past four years, many workers have not been paid for months at a time. The Histadrut says that in 13 municipalities, salaries have not been paid for four months or more, and that workers have gone unpaid for 1-4 months in 29 localities. Rehovot's religious council workers have not been paid in four months, and in Lod - not for three months

Finance Minister Avraham Hirschsohn said this morning that there is no reason to strike. "We have a clear outline of how to solve this whole issue of salaries," he told Army Radio. "I don't see a reason why we need this mess. We can solve the problem in a few days and thus prevent the suffering of many citizens."

Eini said, "The government has the power and authority to institute personal sanctions on mayors who don't pay on time. We demand this measure so that the phenomenon will not repeat itself in a few years."

An employee in one of the municipalities told Arutz-7 Hebrew Radio, "How can it be that people go to work and don't get paid? This is the only way to stop it. There are workers who can't afford food. If the Knesset Members or the Ministers wouldn't get paid, the whole world would turn over."

On Strike

The closure of the Interior Ministry halts an array of services, including the issuing of passports, identity cards, marriage registrations, visas, death registrations and birth certificates.

Transportation Ministry offices have shut, precluding drivers licensing tests, and the nation’s courts are closed, sending the judicial system into an even deeper backlog.

The Israel Electric Company will only carry out required maintenance and emergency repairs, despite their responsibilities to the public as a national monopoly for electricity. Bezeq directory services will not be available, and routine repairs will not be carried out.

Fuel deliveries will halt, ensuring shortages at gas stations should the strike continue. Municipal traffic inspectors will not issue tickets for parking violations, and trash is expected to start piling up within a couple of days if the strike does not end before that.

Firefighters will operate on a limited Sabbath schedule, but other health services, including the nation’s hospitals, MDA Emergency Medical Services and Sick Funds, will operate as usual.

Schools are not on strike, nor are banks, public transportation, Israel Aircraft Industries, and the Sderot Municipality.

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