General Strike Looms as Talks Fail

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Histadrut is digging in its heels over the minimum wage and other issues and a general strike is likely to begin next week, a senior Finance Ministry source told Ynet on Wednesday.

Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn reached an angry standoff with Finance Minister Yair Lapid in the latter’s office this week over the demand to raise the minimum wage by NIS 1,000 per month and for thousands of contract workers in the civil service to be made employees of the state.

Lapid agreed to meet Nissenkorn less than half way, offering only NIS 4,300 per month for workers who do not receive additions to their salary.

The meeting was also attended by Zvika Oren, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel and the Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations. He warned that raising the minimum wage rate too high would result in more unemployment, which would ultimately harm the workers more than a higher minimum wage would help them.

The other outstanding issues relate to the status of contract workers and the absorption of people with disabilities into the labor market.

Although Lapid has taken no position yet regarding contract workers, he said that steps had been underway “for a long time” to provide more access for the disabled, and that there was no cause for dispute.

The Histadrut chairman accused the government of bad faith in its policy of keeping civil servants as contract workers instead of direct employees of the state.

“I do not understand how teachers, nurses and doctors are contract workers,” he said. “The government, Cabinet, the finance minister, they have to decide what we want to have here — a state of poor people, a nation of contract workers, a country that disregards the weak?” The government must set its path and not shy away, he said.