Jerusalem: Half a million Israeli public and
private sector workers were on general strike for a second day
on Thursday, but media reported signs of an emerging agreement
between unions and government.
The two sides negotiated throughout the night and into
this morning in a bid to solve the dispute over the rights of
contract workers, who have lower salaries than their
colleagues, few benefits and can be fired without notice.
The powerful Histadrut labour federation ordered striking
staff at Ben Gurion international airport to return to work,
but government offices and banks remained closed.
Yesterday, Histadrut officials and private employers`
representatives reached agreement in principle over improved
working conditions for contract workers. The unions are now
trying to seal a similar deal for the public sector.
Histadrut chief Ofer Eini and Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz were due to resume talks on Thursday morning.
The issue of contract workers has been simmering for
months, with the Histadrut staging a four-hour general strike
over the same disagreement in November.
It says that employment of contract workers has
mushroomed, particularly in the public sector.
They want to see contract workers receive the same
benefits as others, and have called on the government to hire
some of the contract workers as full employees.
The government says it is willing to make some
concessions on the status of contract workers but that it
would be economically disastrous to offer them all the same
rights as full staff.