Yerushalayim Strike Over

YERUSHALAYIM -

It took only about 14 hours for Israeli officialdom to get the message of the Yerushalayim municipal workers union – that chaos would be the price to pay if massive layoffs were not rescinded.

By Sunday evening, the word was out that the layoffs of 2,150 workers were cancelled as the city and the finance ministry announced they will resume talks to resolve the outstanding budgetary issues. A parallel announcement was made that the strike was suspended.

The sides agreed to a 45-day period of talks to resolve the issues, to be mediated by Histadrut chair Avi Nissankorn.

Mayor Nir Barkat said he had ordered the layoffs in response to the Finance Ministry’s refusal to fulfill an agreement which committed it to hundreds of millions of shekels in essential funds for Yerushalayim. That decision in turn triggered the strike, and by Sunday morning garbage was beginning to pile up around the city.

Barkat thanked Nissankorn for his intervention.

“We sat this morning in his office for two hours and presented the problems and challenges that Yerushalayim is facing, and that demands financial assistance,” Barkat said.

“We then agreed with the Treasury to form a joint team — supervised by the Histadrut chairman — to find an agreed path and a solution [to the crisis],” he added. “I believe in his ability to bridge between both sides and to bring an end to this crisis.”

Not everyone was applauding, though. Yerushalayim opposition leader and mayoral candidate Ofer Berkovitch (Hitorerut) accused Barkat of manufacturing a phony crisis for political gain.

“Good for Barkat for running a personal campaign,” Berkovitch said sarcastically. “He made some headlines at the expense of the residents of Yerushalayim – and achieved nothing.”

“He filled the city with piles of garbage and threatened to fire 2,150 workers. What did he get? A joint negotiation team. This is not how you run a city.”