Minimum Wage Talks On as General Strike Looms

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Israel’s Finance Minister will start negotiations with the Histadrut on Monday in a bid to avert a national strike over demands to sharply raise the minimum wage, the ministry said.

Israel’s minimum wage stands at 4,300 shekels ($1,116) a month and the Histadrut — the umbrella organization for hundreds of thousands of public service workers — is seeking a hike to 5,300.

Lapid invited Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn and Zvika Oren, head of Israel’s Manufacturers’ Association, for talks on Monday aimed at preventing a strike the Histadrut has set for Dec. 4 and would likely shut the airport, trains, seaports and government services.

National strikes cost Israel’s economy an estimated 2 billion shekels a day.

Lapid, in a meeting with Nissenkorn on Friday, said he supports a rise in the minimum wage. He has said previously that he would support a rise to 4,500 shekels a month.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Israel’s real minimum wage was in the middle of the pack — 12th out of 25 countries in 2013. In dollar terms, it was $14,291 a year in 2013, just behind the United States’ $15,080.
Nissenkorn called Israel’s minimum wage a “starvation wage” and said it was the country’s main problem.

“I do not see government ministers or Knesset members capable of surviving a month on 4,300 shekels,” he said, adding that he would not accept a monthly rise of 200 shekels.