The Histadrut Labor Federation and the Teachers Union declared a work dispute on Sunday, June 16, over looming cuts to pensions. The conflict began in the wake of the Finance Ministry’s decision to cut the benefits of hundreds of thousands of members of older pension funds, beginning from July 1. This decision was prompted by the postponement of plans to raise the age of retirement for women from 62 to 64. The cut, at a rate of 1.259%, is a significant sum of money for those dependent on the pensions.
By declaring of a labor dispute, the Histadrut and Teachers Union are giving the mandatory 15-day warning to employers, as well as to the chief supervisor of labor relations at the Labor Ministry. During this cooling-off period, both sides may be brought to the table for mediation.
Should the threat of the strike actually be implemented, union members from government ministries, municipalities, universities, airports, public transportation, schools and government hospitals could all walk out to protest the reduction in payments for retirees.
Last week, Dahil Hamed, member of the Histadrut leadership and head of the Hadash faction, demanded that the labor organization stand its ground to protect retirees – even if this leads to a general strike. “We will not be fooled by false promises made by the neoliberal and far-right government. We must not harm the pensioners,” Hamed said in a statement.
Arnon Bar-David, head of the Histadrut said on Sunday: “We wanted to avoid declaring a work dispute, but apparently things in Israel are not going as smoothly as they are reflected in the media. The threatened cut to pensions has still not been lifted, nor have we received approval for a six-month postponement, which is the most obvious and logical thing to do now. We had no choice but to declare a labor dispute.”
On June 2, pensioners and social activists blocked a major highway in Tel Aviv as part of the Histadrut Pensioners’ Union campaign against the cuts. They caused a major artery running through the city to be closed for almost an hour, leading to confrontations between police and protesters.