A full-blown strike by drivers of Israel’s biggest bus company, Egged, appeared to have been be averted Saturday night, with an agreement between the Finance Ministry and the workers’ union.
The action set for Monday was cancelled after Histadrut labor federation leader Avi Nissenkorn and Finance Ministry Director-General Shai Babad reached a deal that would guarantee drivers’ wages for the coming months, Channel 10 television reported.
According to the agreement, the Finance Ministry will transfer NIS 150 million ($39.4 million) to guarantee the salaries, and negotiations will begin on a collective wage deal for the drivers.
The drivers accused the finance and transportation ministries of seeking to change their status from company employees to contractors, and of threatening to postpone the salaries of over 6,000 Egged employees in order to bring them to the table.
On Wednesday, widespread disruptions to bus services in Israel were reported due to a strike by the drivers from Egged, which operates both intercity and urban bus routes.
Around 1,800 drivers gathered in Jerusalem outside of the Finance Ministry on Wednesday morning to protest against what they called inadequate employment conditions.
Nissenkorn warned the drivers would embark on a full-scale strike on Monday if a solution was not found by then. The Histadrut leader said that the source of the problem was the refusal of the government to renew the drivers’ contracts.
He accused the government of planning to slash subsidies meant to “serve financially challenged populations” and of failing to invest sufficiently in public transportation in Israel.
An Egged spokesman told Army Radio that the finance and transportation ministries were withholding over NIS 250 million ($65 million) from Egged in order to cause financial difficulty at the company, in turn forcing drivers and employees to sign an unfavorable deal out of financial distress.
Guy Landsman, an Egged driver, told Army Radio that “today an Egged driver works 12 hours a day in order to make a living, and also need to work on Friday and Shabbat, but they don’t want to pay us.”
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