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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bishvil zeh yesh Histadrut

Back in the mid-90's Chaim Ramon tried to do a service to the country by getting himself elected Chairman of the Histadrut and running the organization into the ground. He almost succeeded, but then Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated and Ramon resigned from the Histadrut and became a minister in Shimon Peres' government. As a result, Ramon's deputy - a guy named Amir Comrade Peretz became Chairman of the Histadrut and saved the organization. During Peretz's time, they ran a number of radio ads with complaining workers that all ended "Bishvil zeh yesh Histadrut" - For this, there is a Histadrut (General Federation of Labor). Tomorrow morning, a lot of Israelis and a lot of tourists may wish Ramon had been more successful, because since Ramon left, the only thing the Histadrut has brought us is one strike after another, and higher taxes to pay the salaries of all the overpaid hacks who work for the Electric Company, the Ports Authority and others.

The night and day after the Tisha b'Av fast is one of the biggest travel days of the year here. Think of it like the sessions changing in overnight camp. And from now until the end of August is peak travel time. Every plane is booked solid (two years ago, I had to fly to the US the first week of August - which was the week BEFORE Tisha b'Av - on short notice and an economy class ticket cost me over $1400. And the travel agent said I was lucky. She thought it would cost $2000). The Histadrut has called a 'general strike' tomorrow morning. And as of now, it includes the airport.

The Histadrut and the government are so far apart it's pathetic:
Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini declared a general strike, starting as early as Wednesday, after last-ditch talks with Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On over public sector wages broke down Monday night.

"Bar-On raised the ministry's offer from a 0.4 percent to a 1% salary increase, an addition of NIS 15, which is unacceptable and not serious. We had demanded a 10.4% wage increase for public sector employees retroactive from 2001," said the Histadrut.
For the record, we have had almost no inflation here since 2001 - that's why they haven't gotten 'cost of living' raises.

If the strike comes, the entire public sector will be shut down:
A general strike could encompass employees in government offices, the Bank of Israel, the postal service, some hospitals and government companies such as Israel Electric Corp., employees of former state companies, including Bezeq Ltd. and El Al Israel Airlines Ltd.
The employees of former government companies (companies that used to be owned by the government and have been sold off) are required to go on strike. There are no picket lines here, no strike breakers. Everyone just stays home. By law. And not strike votes either. If Eini wants to call a strike, he calls a strike. By the way, Bezeq is the phone company.

One thing the article does not mention is that if there is a strike, there are no flights on which to put all the people whose flights are canceled. Everything is booked solid, and as you know, we don't have enough planes flying in and out of here as it is.

So if you are scheduled to go to the US on Thursday, or to arrive here next week, if there's a strike, be prepared to have to take a circuitous route - or to have to cancel your trip altogether. Unless you want to travel to Amman or Cairo by bus first.

Update 10:00 PM

The strike is on but the strike at the airport is postponed to 6:00 AM Thursday. Every place else it will start at 6:00 AM tomorrow.


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