Jerusalem sanitation strike ends as deal struck to save jobs
search

Jerusalem sanitation strike ends as deal struck to save jobs

Finance Ministry to transfer city NIS 17 million for continuing to employ workers, talks continue on further funds

People walk next to a pile of uncollected garbage in downtown Jerusalem on January 3, 2016, on the fourth day of a strike by the city's sanitation workers. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
People walk next to a pile of uncollected garbage in downtown Jerusalem on January 3, 2016, on the fourth day of a strike by the city's sanitation workers. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

A strike by Jerusalem’s sanitation workers ended Sunday three days after it began on Thursday, when the city sent termination letters to 170 department employees. The work stoppage came to an end when municipality and the Finance Ministry reached an agreement on the transfer of additional funds to the city so keep the workers on for another year.

According to the agreement, which also involved the Histadrut labor federation, the Finance Ministry will immediately transfer NIS 17 million ($4.4 million) to the city to fund the additional employment of those sanitation workers who were fired last week.

The four days of the sanitation strike saw large buildups of uncollected garbage along Jerusalem’s streets, with accumulated trash even temporarily blocking off some streets in the city center.

A statement released by the Jerusalem Municipality said that the Finance Ministry will transfer an additional NIS 20 million ($5.1 million) for continued security reinforcement in the city’s schools, in the wake of the current terror wave.

Uncollected garbage at the entrance to Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, on the fourth day of a strike by the city's sanitation workers, on January 3, 2016. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)
Uncollected garbage at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, on the fourth day of a strike by the city’s sanitation workers, on January 3, 2016. (Hadas Parush/ Flash90)

The statement also said that the sides agreed to enter “intensive negotiations” discussing further government assistance to be given to Jerusalem.

The municipality added that the approved funding is “only a small part of Jerusalem’s needs,” and that “without a transfer of the necessary funds, the crisis will continue and there will be no option other than continuing ‘painful cuts’ in all of the city’s activities.” The city claimed that the affected services would include education, culture, welfare and maintenance, and that they would influence “all areas of life.”

When the 170 sanitation workers originally received their termination letters on Thursday morning, the municipality claimed that it had been forced to make “massive cuts” in its budget, “because there was no progress with the Finance Ministry in the transfer of the necessary funds to Israel’s capital.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat speaks a conference by Haaretz newspaper in Tel Aviv on November 12, 2015 (Tomer Appelbaum/Israel Conference of Peace)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat speaks a conference by Haaretz newspaper in Tel Aviv on November 12, 2015 (Tomer Appelbaum/Israel Conference of Peace)

“The Finance Ministry’s refusal to transfer funds to Jerusalem does not allow us to continue the services provided by the city, and we are forced to take the most difficult step and lay off workers that we need, and make difficult cuts in the city’s support for welfare, educational and cultural institutions, which means laying off thousands of additional workers in the city,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said on Thursday. “Especially in a period of terror attacks, we expected to receive wider reinforcement and not a cold shoulder.”

The funding in question is provided annually to Jerusalem by the government and is meant to fill in the gap between the city’s revenues and its spending on services for residents. The city originally claimed that it needed NIS 400 million (about $102 million) in additional funding in order to continue functioning.

File: Avi Nissenkorn, chairman of the Histadrut Labor Federation, at a press conference in Jerusalem, October 7, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Avi Nissenkorn, chairman of the Histadrut Labor Federation, at a press conference in Jerusalem, October 7, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the wake of Sunday’s agreement, Barkat thanked Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn on his involvement in the crisis and his “willingness to continue with the process of strengthening Jerusalem.”

Two weeks ago, Barkat announced that he was officially joining the Likud party, arousing suspicions that he was considering a potential challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership. However, Barkat said that he plans to continue to serve as mayor of Jerusalem, “at least until the end of the current term” in 2018.

read more:
comments