An agreement was reached between the Histadrut labor union and the Finance Ministry Sunday morning, ending a five-day general strike that had partially paralyzed Israel. All public services will resume again by the afternoon.
Speaking at a press conference following the deal, Ofer Eini, head of the Histadrut, said he was pleased with the results, saying tens of thousands of workers would now have better conditions and equal rights.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said the agreement was a good one, not only because of the raise in salary, but mainly because the workers now had equal social rights. He added that enforcement of existing labor laws was crucial.
Eini can claim quite a few victories. Tens of thousands of subcontracted workers, working in government offices, will receive a raise in their salary, and those who work alongside directly employed workers will have the same rights as their peers — such as bonuses before holidays and subsidized meals.
A symbolic gesture was made when the treasury agreed to directly hiring 300 care givers from different institutes. Of the 300, half work with Holocaust survivors and half with the mentally ill.
In addition, government offices will no longer be able to sub contract workers for more than nine months, and 120 more inspectors will be hired by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, in an attempt to better enforce existing labor laws.
It is estimated the deal will cost the treasury some NIS 800 million, both in direct salaries and social benefits.
The treasury can also claim some success, most importantly an agreement by the Histadrut to refrain from striking over financial demands for the next three years. Another achievement by the Finance Ministry is the fact that the vast majority of the agreement talks only about the public, and not private, sector.
In the private sector, security, cleaning and maintenance workers salaries will be matched to those of the public sector, ensuring them a fair income.
Noting that Israel was the only developed country to address this issue in the past three years, Steinitz called the agreement “historical.” Eini said this was one of the toughest fights he’d ever been in, but said both sides came with values, and negotiated fairly.
Labor unions in Israel have been on strike for more than four days, with the banks, postal service, public transport and garbage collection all shut down. The air and sea ports went on strike for limited periods of time, as did parts of the education system.
The goal of the strike was to end, or drastically limit, the concept of subcontracted workers. Subcontracted workers are people employed through employment agencies, and as a result they have no long term contract, nor are all their social rights upheld.