Labor chief calls off planned strike over budget

Labor chief calls off planned strike over budget

Histadrut head Ofer Eini meets with Finance Minister Yair Lapid regarding proposed cuts to state workers’ salaries

Ofer Eini, left, at Finance Minister Yair Lapid's home for a meeting on April 8, 2013 (Photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash 90
Ofer Eini, left, at Finance Minister Yair Lapid's home for a meeting on April 8, 2013 (Photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash 90

The head of Israel’s largest workers’ union agreed to call off a threatened strike after holding a lengthy meeting with Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Monday.

Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini said he would hold off on calling for a general work dispute to protest upcoming austerity measures in the proposed 2013-2014 budget, as he had been threatening to do starting Tuesday, Ynet reported, citing sources on both sides.

Sources described the meeting as positive and good-natured.

The two men are expected to meet again in the coming days to continue discussions over the state budget, Israel Radio reported.

Eini threatened to call the strike over a budget line which calls for state worker salaries and benefits to be cut by NIS 4 billion. The measure is one of several, including tax hikes and cuts in child allowances, that Lapid has proposed to decrease the country’s NIS 39 billion deficit.

According to Israeli labor law, a work dispute must be called two weeks before a union can strike, during which time efforts must be made to negotiate a settlement.

Eini had planned to call for the measure on Tuesday, as a prelude to a general strike which would bring the country to a standstill.

Media reports have indicated that Lapid, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s backing, may look to pass new measures that would weaken the unions’ ability to strike.

The law would place strict limits on when and for how long essential workers, such as those at ports, utilities and transportation companies, can strike for. It would also do away with the National Labor Court.

Earlier on Monday, Lapid wrote to Supreme Court President Asher Grunis that he had no intention of shutting down the labor court.

Similar anti-union measures have been torpedoed by Histadrut strikes in the past.

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