Israelis poised for mass strike over wages

Workers are set to stage a strike across the occupied territories to demand a rise in pays in a move likely to harm Israel’s lumbering economy.

The industrial action that is planned for Wednesday would likely see Israel’s main airport, seaports, trains, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, offices, hospitals and schools closed.

In a bid to prevent the strike, officials from the Israeli Finance Ministry and the Histadrut – the umbrella organization for 700,000 public sector workers – held a meeting, whose outcome is still unclear.

Based on estimates by business leaders, the direct economic damage of the industrial action could be about 300 million shekels (USD 77 million) a day while the authorities say the total damage could be between one billion to three billion shekels daily.

The Histadrut wants an 11 percent pay raise for civil workers, saying many people can hardly make ends meet in Israel.

Talks over the demand have so far failed to yield any results as Israeli officials insist that workers that have lower salaries receive more while those earning higher wages get less of a raise.

Israel’s Manufacturers’ Association and Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce have, meanwhile, urged the labor court to prevent any strike.

Israel witnessed its last strike in early 2012, which continued for three days. The industrial action cost the economy about six billion shekels and ended after the cabinet offered a new wage package for low-earning contract workers.

Last December another walk out was prevented after the Histadrut came to an agreement with private sector employers to raise Israel’s minimum wage.

The Israeli economy experienced a slower-than-expected growth in the first half of the current year.


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