Israel aims to head off strike over soaring prices

Wednesday 9 Feb 2011

A meeting between the prime minister and Histadrut chairman ended with no concrete results to ease the current crisis

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: AP)

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday with union officials in a bid to stave off rising public anger and a general strike threat over spiralling food and petrol prices, officials said.

During the talks with Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini and the heads of the manufacturers' association and the local authorities' union, Netanyahu laid out a package of cuts aimed at staving off public discontent over rising prices.

The emergency session was convened after union leaders threatened to call a general strike in protest at government inaction over rising prices.

Over the past year, the price of bread has risen by 10 percent, petrol has jumped 13 percent and water has soared by a massive 134 percent, with the population also under pressure from a rise in housing and transportation costs as well as indirect taxes.

But union officials quoted by business news website Globes, said the talks had failed. "The meeting with the prime minister ended with no results," the website quoted a Histadrut official as saying, adding that Netanyahu offered "no concrete actions" to ease the current crisis.

Histadrut officials were not immediately available to confirm the report, but Netanyahu's office said an evening press conference to announce the easing measures had been postponed.

Union officials were to meet later in the day and expected to press ahead with plans to declare a general strike on Thursday that would take effect in two weeks, according to Globes.

Speaking on Israel's public radio, MP Moshe Gafni, who heads the parliamentary finance committee, warned that the spiralling prices were likely to cause civil unrest.

"We cannot live with these increases, there is a risk of a social rebellion," he said.

The rising cost of living was one of the key issues which sparked a massive anti-government uprising in Egypt, where protesters are pushing for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.

Economic issues were also at the heart of an uprising last month in Tunisia that ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Short link: