February 12, 2012
February 12, 2012
An Israeli public sector strike that has disrupted public transportation and closed banks, the stock market and government offices ended on Sunday with a new wage package for low-earning contract workers.
At a joint news conference, the head of the Histadrut labor federation and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that they had signed an accord to improve the conditions of contract workers employed in the public sector.
“It’s a good agreement, very good even,” Steinitz said. “There is a significant improvement, not only in salary but more importantly in social benefits.”
“It’s a ground-breaking agreement,” Histadrut chief Ofer Eini said.
The Histadrut had demanded the government hire 250,000 contract workers, such as cleaners and security guards, whose conditions are inferior to those directly on government payrolls.
Under the deal, those workers will not be hired by the state. Instead, they will get pay rises, be eligible for merit bonuses and their pension plans will be improved, according to the ministry statement.
Contract employees have until now received lower salaries than permanent staff colleagues, few benefits, and could be fired without notice.
A deal on the rights of contract workers was reached with private employers earlier in the week, but the government — said to employ the bulk of the contract workers — had been reluctant to sign a similar deal.
Before the announcement, rubbish had been piling up on streets and drivers of the national bus corporation had joined the strike, disrupting travel on the first day of the Israeli working week.
Ben Gurion international airport, railways and harbors were open on Sunday, and government offices and banks were to resume service during the course of the day.
The issue of contract workers has been simmering for months, with the Histadrut staging a four-hour strike in the same dispute in November.
By AL ARABIYA WITH AGENCIES