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Nov 29, 2006

striking out

We all thought when Amir Peretz was appointed Defence Minister and not Finance Minister that the days of the general strikes were over and behind us. No more could Amir Peretz wreak havoc in order to flex his muscle as head of the Labor Union.

We were wrong.

Today and for the foreseeable future there will be a general strike of the Labor Union in Israel. The impetus for the strike was the fact that many (I think 80) municipalities have not paid employees for many months, some as long as 12 months! There are some other issues as well, such as changes to some pension plans, but the main issue is the unpaid employees.

So all government offices are on strike and nobody can get services. The airport is shut down so nobody can come and go. The trains are on the blink so it is pure hell getting to and from work. Ports are closed so no imports and exports will be happening. Among many other basic needs and necessities that will be put on hold until the negotiations bear success.

At first I thought this strike was one of the most, if not the most, justified strikes in the history of the Labor Union. These poor employees have not been paid salaries in up to 12 months!! That is ridiculous and should nto happen. This is the only weapon available to them. Stop working. Make it uncomfortable for the people, and by extension the government.

I heard some guy on the radio today. He was being interviewed because he has not been paid his salary in 12 months. He has no money. He has used up all his savings that have been socked away for kids education and his retirement because he has no had a salary for the past 12 months. he needed that money for basic living expenses. He paid fees and fines for breaking savings plans. Every shekel counts, literally, for him and he never knows if he will be able to feed his kids the next meal.

It is a shonda that it has come to this.

Then I heard an interview with a government minister, Meir Sheetrit. I never liked him, even when he was part of the Likud Party, let alone now that he is in Kadima. However what said in the interview sounded sensible. He was being interviewed because last year he was Assistant Minister of Finance and is partially being blamed as the cause for the current strike.

They asked Sheetrit how it came to this and why the government is not paying the salaries. I did not understand everything he said because I am not completely clear and the interaction between municipal government and federal government, but here it is to the best of my understanding. He explained that the employees are not employees of the government. If the government comes in and bails them out now, it will set a bad precedent. He explained the deficit of the affected municipalities is above 14 billion shekels(!). The government does not have that kind of money to bail them out with. He asked why they woke up when it hit 14 billion and did not take care of it when it hit 1 billion . Where were the accountants who were being paid to deal with this all along. He therefore claims it is not the governments responsibility, nor should it be.

He added that the government had been in negotiations with the municipalities and offered to bail them out at times over the past few years with certain conditions, such as putting into place plans for recovery. These plans would include layoffs of employees not needed, cancellation of projects deemed extra, cancellation of departments that are considered wasteful and "fat", etc. among others. The municipalities, and the Labor Union, refused and therefore it has come to this.

Now I do not know who is right and who is wrong. I feel bad that the poor guy has not had a salary in 12 months and can barely put food on his table. I cannot even imagine what that would be like and what I would do if I was in his situation! I feel bad for the people trying to travel, be it for business, vacations, health issues, family simchas that they might now miss. All these people will likely lose lots of money due to rescheduling and cancellations. I feel bad for the people (like me) who just need to get to work in the morning and home in the evening who now have to go through delays of hours looking for alternate transportation and extra expenses incurred.

I do not know who is right, but I hope they negotiate an end to this strike quickly.

We did think of some creative solutions to the strike, or at least those aspects of it affecting us. One such solution included contacting Arkady Gaydamak and requesting he evacuate the residents of Bet Shemesh to Tel Aviv due to our extreme "traumatic" situation. He would hire buses for us and take us to Tel Aviv so we could go to work.

Another such solution was asking Gaydamak to purchase Israel Railways and get the trains running. At least that way he would gain the profits of the railway in addition to helping all the travellers.

Another solution suggested was have Gaydamak pay off all those salaries that have not been paid. This way he would be helping people in financial ruin and emotional distress and there would be no reason for the strike.

There were some others, some suggested on radio and some just in personal conversation, and they all involved Gaydamak coming to the rescue.

And that is really the pickle we are in. Nobody expects the government to actually do its job and take care of the people and provide us with safety and security, so Gaydamak comes in and fills the void, and then the government criticizes him for it.

1 comment:

  1. It doesn't help that there are so many tiny municipalities that (understandably) refuse to merge with their larger, more diverse neighbors. Each municipality must maintain its own workers and services.
    You didn't even mention the ganim, where the assistants are on strike and the parents have to either volunteer in the gan or miss work to take care of their children, or bring them to work.

    ReplyDelete

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