A two-day truce was called in the nurses’ strike on Wednesday, as the strike was poised to enter its 10th day.
“We decided on a two-day truce to help the hospitals, and in good faith end the crisis as fast as possible. I hope that once it ends there will be intensive, real negotiations and a solution to the crisis,” said Ilana Cohen, National Nurses Union Chairwoman.
She said that the relief measure will help general health clinics and bring more flexibility in treating emergency cases. During the strike, hospitals have been operating during certain hours with a skeleton staff of nurses. So far, some 3,500 operations have been canceled nationwide, Maariv reported.
Negotiations between the nurses and the Treasury were slated to resume Wednesday afternoon, after a Tuesday night ruling by the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court, which turned back a petition from the Finance Ministry and refused to issue back-to-work orders.
The court, convening after another day of failed negotiations between nurse union leaders and ministry representatives, denied the Finance Ministry’s contention that the strike was illegal.
The 30,000-strong Clalit Workers Union threatened to launch a strike in solidarity with the nurses if the issue is not resolved soon. Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene, and berated the Finance Ministry for seeking an injunction against the nurses.
New wage agreements and help with a severe manpower deficit among nursing staffs in Israel are at the core of nurses’ demands. According to 2011 OECD statistics, Israel has one of the lowest proportions of professional nurses among developed countries — 4.14 per 1,000 people.
Finance Ministry director of budgets Gal Hershkovitz said it would be inappropriate for the government to make decisions entailing long-term fiscal obligations until after the January 22 general elections.
He added that the Finance Ministry presented the most specific offers to the nurses that it could at this juncture. Treasury sources have termed the nurses’ demands “excessive.”
Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.