Netanyahu Says Threat of Strikes Won’t Deter Economic Reforms

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said strikes won’t stop planned economic reforms, even as the Histadrut labor federation threatened to take action over the government budget.

“We intend to implement a series of reforms to increase competition in the economy,” Netanyahu told Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, today. “No strike will deter us from carrying out measures that benefit every Israeli citizen.”

Employees at El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. and two other local airlines walked out April 21 after the government approved an “Open Skies” agreement with the European Union to open new routes and increase competition in air travel. The strike ended the next day after the Finance Ministry agreed to cover the companies’ added security costs.

Netanyahu said similar reforms are also planned to increase competition at Israeli ports, break down corporate monopolies and lower the cost of living.

Histadrut head Ofer Eini called on the government today to start talks immediately on planned cuts in the 2013-2014 budget, and threatened to take action if it doesn’t.

Proposed budget reductions “can seriously damage the economic situation of workers and pensioners,” Eini said in an e-mailed statement. “If immediate negotiations don’t take place, we will use every means at our disposal.”

There is a 35 billion-shekel ($9.67 billion) deficit in Israel’s 2013-14 budget, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said yesterday. While budget proposals were presented this week to Netanyahu, no decisions have yet been taken, Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy told Israel Radio yesterday.

The Histadrut represents about 800,000 workers, including most of Israel’s public sector employees, according to spokeswoman Dafna Cohen.

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