Israel’s firefighters win big gains – including the right to strike

The Histadrut and the firefighters union have signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Internal Security that contains big gains for the workers.

The two sides had long disagreed on the question of whether Israeli firefighters should have the right to strike. The government has argued that they should not as lives would be at risk if they did, but the agreement confirms their right to do so.

In some countries, firefighters’ unions face severe legal restrictions on their right to strike.

Among the other gains are a one-time bonus payment of 10,000 shekels, a 15% pay rise, and an agreed compensation for working shifts, Saturdays or holidays. New firefighters will receive an additional 13%.

According to the Histadrut, the agreement solves problems which have afflicted the fire services for many years.

The agreement is part of a far-reaching reform of the Israeli firefighting services following the disastrous Carmel forest blaze in December 2010 which claimed 44 lives.

A report issued by Israel’s State Comptroller a month ago found a large number of operational failures and in particular blamed the the finance and interior ministers, while also naming the internal security minister and the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Histadrut’s statement about the agreement is available here (in Hebrew).