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Netanyahu Says Strike Threatens Stability of Israeli Economy

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Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to the Histadrut labor federation to call off a strike planned for tomorrow, saying it threatens economic stability and won’t help solve a dispute over contract workers.

“The Israeli economy is in a sensitive situation, and this is not the time to endanger the stability we have achieved with great effort and the cooperation between the government and the Histadrut in the face of the global economic crisis,” Netanyahu said today, according to a text message sent by his office.

Histadrut chief Ofer Eini is scheduled to meet with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz late today in a final effort to hold off the strike.

If negotiations fail, the strike will shut down banks, ports and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, according to the Histadrut, the country’s largest labor organization.

The Bank of Israel will also be shut if the strike goes ahead, the federation said. Airports will be closed for the first six hours of the strike, which is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m., it said.

The labor federation estimates that 250,000 Israelis employed through contractors receive on average about 30 percent less pay than comparable workers directly employed. The Histadrut is calling on the government to take stronger action to have them hired directly so they receive higher wages and benefits.

A Histadrut strike on Nov. 7 was cut short in the middle of the day by the National Labor Court, which ordered the two sides to resume negotiations. The court rejected another bid to strike in January before it allowed the labor organization to organize the action for tomorrow.

Steinitz said in November that the government “is willing to do much to improve wages of contract workers and to maintain their conditions.” He added, though, that the use of contract workers, especially in cleaning jobs, is part of “the modern world.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net; Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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