Deal Ends Crippling Israeli Strike
Dec. 08, 1997
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ A deal between hard-pressed union and government negotiators has ended a nationwide public-employee strike that paralyzed much of Israel for five days.
The walkout by more than 600,000 workers had stranded travelers at the international airport and closed banks, post offices, kindergartens and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Histadrut union leader Amir Peretz announced Sunday that a meeting with Finance Minister Yaakov Neeman produced a compromise over pensions, sending strikers back to work immediately.
The massive protest had been prompted in part by a Finance Ministry proposal to roll back a pension agreement signed by the previous Labor government.
Army Radio said the government has already agreed to cancel plans to retroactively tighten the conditions of retirement savings plans.
``I hope the citizens of Israel have understood the need for this strike despite the hardship it brought about,'' Peretz said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was pleased that the work stoppage was over, Israel TV reported.
Earlier Sunday, hundreds of striking workers blocked major intersections. About one-third of the country's bus drivers joined in.
Israel Radio said more than 60,000 people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were without phone service because repair workers were striking.
Workers burned tires and demanded Neeman's resignation outside the Jerusalem Labor Court, which had been asked to decide whether strikers were in contempt of court for ignoring a back-to-work order issued last week.
In Haifa, dozens of taxi and bus drivers drove slowly down main streets, purposely snarling traffic. Gasoline stations said they would soon start running out of fuel. In Tel Aviv, garbage piled up on the streets.
Many automatic teller machines throughout the country ran out of funds, leaving Israelis strapped for cash.
Shuki Abramovich, head of the economics division at the Manufacturers Association of Israel, estimated total damage to the economy at $57 million.
Ben-Gurion International Airport was a scene of mayhem as thousands of tourists who had been stranded by the strike fought for seats on flights out of the country.
``Tourist on strike,'' read a T-shirt worn by Alan Braunshweiger of New York City, who was supposed to have flown out of Israel on Thursday.
Although his daughter lives in Jerusalem, he insisted Sunday that he would ``never return.''
``For a land of milk and honey, I'm going out with a sour taste,'' he said.