In protest against breaches of collective wage agreements, Some 700,000 Israeli public sector workers began a nationwide strike early this morning, freezing all public services provided by the state.
Strikers are demonstrating against the Israeli government's decision to pass a bill that will abrogate collective wage agreements by slashing wages, firing employees and altering pension conditions.
Throughout the duration of the strike, banks will not be operational along with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Ben-Gurion International Airport, Israel Railroad service, Bezeq phone repairs, income tax and land registry offices and nursing at hospitals.
Chairman of Israel’s national trade union, the Histadrut and member of parliament Amir Peretz stated that the strike “is about a basic struggle to save Israeli society and democracy in the country” reported Haaretz. However, Minister without portfolio Meir Sheetrit told Israeli media that the Histadrut "will not achieve anything by striking that it couldn't have achieved by negotiations."
The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics recently determined that Israel is experiencing its worst economic slowdown since the establishment of the Jewish state, in 1948. As the current Palestinian Intifada enters its third year, both local and foreign investors who follow events with alarm are pulling their money out. The tourism industry lost a whopping 80 percent since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000, and the once booming high-tech sector has been devastated.
With over 50,000 small businesses shut down in 2002 and an additional 60,000 expected to close this year, unemployment in Israel has peaked at 10.4 percent. It is currently estimated that 1.2 million people, 20 percent of the Israeli population, now live in poverty. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )