Last updated: 9 February, 2012

Israel general strike enters second day

Half a million Israeli public and private sector workers were on general strike for a second day on Thursday, but media reported signs of an emerging agreement between unions and government.

The two sides negotiated throughout the night and into Thursday morning in a bid to solve the dispute over the rights of contract workers, who have lower salaries than their colleagues, few benefits and can be fired without notice.

The powerful Histadrut labour federation ordered striking staff at Ben Gurion international airport to return to work, but government offices and banks remained closed.

On Wednesday, Histadrut officials and private employers’ representatives reached agreement in principle over improved working conditions for contract workers. The unions are now trying to seal a similar deal for the public sector.

Histadrut chief Ofer Eini and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz were due to resume talks on Thursday morning.

The issue of contract workers has been simmering for months, with the Histadrut staging a four-hour general strike over the same disagreement in November.

It says that employment of contract workers has mushroomed, particularly in the public sector.

They want to see contract workers receive the same benefits as others, and have called on the government to hire some of the contract workers as full employees.

The government says it is willing to make some concessions on the status of contract workers but that it would be economically disastrous to offer them all the same rights as full staff.