MKs look to unite to raise minimum wage after move shot down
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MKs look to unite to raise minimum wage after move shot down

Attorney general opposes change in base salary rules ahead of election, but Labor and Likud come together to push plan ahead

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog (L), with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2013. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog (L), with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2013. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The Knesset may be set to push through Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promised minimum wage hike in the coming weeks, despite the Knesset’s dissolution and opposition from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.

According to a Likud statement Thursday, coalition chair MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and Labor’s Knesset faction chair MK Eitan Cabel, representing the opposition, agreed to advance the wage hike announced by Netanyahu last week.

The hike was agreed to by the Histadrut labor union federation and employers’ groups, and was accepted by the prime minister.

But it faced opposition from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who suggested Thursday there were legal difficulties with passing major changes in economic policy in an interim pre-election government after the Knesset itself had dissolved.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Yesh Atid party commended the attorney general’s move, saying Weinstein prevented “electoral corruption and safeguarded good governance.”

“Raising the minimum wage is a necessary, moral and ethical decision which, had the prime minister not logjammed the move by [former] finance minister [Yair] Lapid, would have gone forward,” the party said in a statement. “Once again the prime minister makes decisions based on political interests with the primaries and not the public interest at heart.”

But Labor and Likud disagreed. Though competitors, the two largest parties in recent polls both view Yesh Atid as an electoral threat. Both have now teamed up to advance the wage hike despite opposition from Weinstein and Lapid, who chairs Yesh Atid.

By law and Knesset rules, a dissolved Knesset can still pass legislation and changes to the state budget, but only if the change enjoys wall-to-wall support in both the coalition and opposition.

A special “Consensus Committee” composed of coalition and opposition representatives is established in an outgoing Knesset to allow for such proposals to be advanced.

According to Likud and Labor sources, the two sides agreed Thursday to push the proposal through the Consensus Committee, and, if necessary, to push through legislation in a plenum vote in order to implement the wage hike before Election Day.

Between a quarter and a third of Israeli workers are employed on a base salary of minimum wage, which currently stands at NIS 4,300 ($1,076), according to a Channel 2 report.

The salary bump came amid two recent poverty reports, which maintained that 1.6 million Israelis live under the poverty line, and that the average Israeli household spends hundreds of shekels more than its income monthly, primarily due to housing costs.

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