Negotiations between the Finance Ministry and the Labor Federation failed to yield an agreement on the issue of contract workers setting in motion a nationwide strike involving all national and local services.
Talks have been suspended pending a hearing at the National Labor Court on Wednesday afternoon. Sources at the Histardrut said there is still a chance an agreement will be reached during the day.
Labor Federation chairman Ofer Eini said: "The future of the strike depends on the prime minister and the industry, trade and labor minister. If they decide to include contract workers in the public sector in the agreement, we will immediately end the strike."
Netanyahu responded by instructing the Prime Minister's Office director to explore what the demand would entail together with the Finance Ministry.
Delays at Ben Gurion Airport (Photo: Noam Moskowitz)
Slight delays were recorded at the Ben Gurion Airport as the strike at the site ended at 12 pm.
The Israel Airports Authority rearranged various flights in anticipation of the strike as part of which some 50 flights were either canceled or pushed forward. In total, the disruptions affected some 10,000 passengers.
The Treasury raised its offer for pay rises and benefits for cleaning workers by NIS 200 million (roughly $54 million). The current offer therefore stands at NIS 700 million (roughly $188 million). This is the second time in two months that the Labor Federation imposes a general strike.
Passengers crowd bus station as railways close (Photo: Herzl Yosef)
Among the bodies on strike are Israel Railways, Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel seaports, the stock exchange and the Postal Company. Banks, government offices, local authorities, immigration services and the National Insurance Institute will also freeze operations. Public health nurses and administrative staff at universities are also on strike.
The strike will also affect cultural activity as many museums and theatres have ceased operations.
Meanwhile, contact workers, whose conditions are the main reason for the strike, were forced to go to work as usual on Wednesday. "Despite the fact that the strike is for our benefit, we're obligated to work. This illustrates our condition compared to that of regular employees," a contract worker in the maintenance field said.
Tani Goldstein, Aviel Magnezi, Yair Altman and Avital Lahav contributed to this report