November 7, 2011
Israeli workers strike cut short by court
Israel’s main labor union ended a brief strike that shut down major sectors of the economy on Monday, following a labor court injunction that limited the action to just four hours.
The Histadrut Labour Federation, the umbrella body for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, was looking to strike for as long as it took to reach an agreement with the government over the status of contract workers.
The union had threatened to shut down Israel’s airports, ports, banks and the stock market indefinitely, but accepted the court decision and limited the strike to Monday morning.
Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv was closed for two hours and about a dozen flights were delayed or canceled. An airports authority spokesman said operations were swiftly returning to normal.
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange started trading about an hour late and will stay open an extra half hour.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called on the Histadrut to cancel the strike, which also affected trains, buses, universities, government ministries and municipalities.
The disagreement focused on the status of contract workers.
The Histadrut wants the government to provide full benefits to 250,000 contract workers—such as cleaners and security guards—who have worse terms than staff directly on government payrolls.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has said he was willing to accept “models from developed welfare states like Sweden, Finland and Holland” where he said such workers are employed through contractors, but they have better conditions.
The labor court instructed the parties to hold intensive talks to find a solution and report on progress by Thursday.
“We hope that the government and employers will use the days allotted by the court to hold real and serious negotiations to reach agreements,” Histadrut leader Ofer Eini said in a statement.
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Philippa Fletcher