Finance Minister Yair Lapid declared Tuesday night that the expected reforms, alongside the dramatic budget cut will be "a war on everything," but it seems that the Histadrut labor federation is not planning on giving up. "Whoever threatens is in some kind of distress, aggression doesn't work with us," said Avi Edri, the chairman of the Histadrut's transport workers union.
Hours after Lapid delivered his "working man's" speech, a draft of the Arrangements Law, which the finance minister plans to submit for the Knesset's approval, was made public.
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The reform at the seaports is not part of the draft, but in his speech on Tuesday night, Lapid clarified that he will not be deterred by this either. Chairman Edri, who represents port workers, noted that "we don't fear anyone and we have recently proven that we can't be spoken to with threats and unilateral moves. We have our organizational power and we hope that no one will test us. We only know one way - and that is negotiation."
"We have a collective agreement stating that until 2020 the ports cannot be privatized; it was signed in 2005, and amongst those who signed it are the former finance minister and the current prime minister. Whoever wants to do something unilaterally will lead us to a stance of war," Edri warned.
Chairman of the Israeli Sea Officers' Union Avi Levy also criticized Lapid's announcement. "As far as I know, in a labor relations system you talk, not fight. Each labor relations system at the ports is within the framework of collective agreements. Even if they want to make some sort of organizational change, we need to sit and talk. I don't like this language of 'fighting'; we are citizens of the State and port workers do a good job and receive salaries in accordance. No one needs to be ashamed of that," he said.
Ashdod port (Photo: Elad Gershgoren)
Lapid also said that "if small interest groups control our ports, our public services, the prices of our products…we sold out the working man's interest, and that must be changed; if daycare costs a mother NIS 1,000 ($275) more than it does for another mother who does not work, then someone sold us out."
The list of the reforms Lapid presented also include housing subsidies to benefit employed individuals. This led to optimism amongst those who are likely to meet the criteria. One of them, Eyal Gur, 39, from Jerusalem, a father of three who works as a marketing consultant said "I am not asking the country to provide us with all our needs, but I would expect that the most basic thing, a roof over our heads, will be a feasible option in this country for a young, working couple."
Lapid (L) with BOI chief Fischer (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Elisheva Mazya, CEO of the Jerusalem based nonprofit organization New Spirit, said that "since 94' we have become accustomed to the fact that subsidized housing in Israel is given almost solely to a very specific population. The last elections finally proved that our apathetic generation has had enough of getting used to injustice. But moreover – we are happy and welcome the fact that the finance minister understood that there is no escaping subsidizing property for young couples and not as affirmative action."
Real social justice
Ofer Berkovich, chairman of "Wake up Jerusalem" said that "after five years in which the movement has struggled for a change in discriminatory criteria…years in which the State of Israel chose to give benefits to those who don't help themselves and who don't go out and look for work, we welcome and are pleased with the finance minister regarding the new criterion."
Berkovich added that "this is real social justice, and this is a decision that will encourage many to go out and join the labor market."
Those expected to be hurt by the reform are the ultra-Orthodox. Following a day of heated exchanges between their representatives in the Knesset and Finance Minister Lapid, MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) said that "this is a foolish attempt to harm a large portion of the population, when they come to actualize their basic rights to find a roof over their heads in Israel."
NIS 67 thousand limit
During his speech, Lapid noted that the cut in child allowances will apply to citizens earning more than NIS 67,000 ($18,453) a month. Avi, a real-estate entrepreneur and father of two, is likely to be hurt by the cut, but is not "panic-stricken" by the decision. According to him, "I am for it. It is especially good in times like this."
And there are those who can only dream of earning a NIS 67,000 salary and have the child allowance taken away from them.
Dorin Kfir, a single mother, believes that "there is no need to determine the allowances, but rather to change the tax bracket. People who earn NIS 67,000 will be left untouched by the lack of allowances. What will affect them is if they pay more taxes and know that if they take a loan from the bank, they will be forced to pay it back in full and bear the responsibility and punishment just like the citizen who earns NIS 5,000 ($1,377) does."
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