Israel general strike ends after 4 hours

The strike shut down all government offices, universities, ports, post offices and the Tel Aviv stock exchange for most of the morning following a dispute over the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of contract workers employed by the government.
It also paralysed the country's main international airport near Tel Aviv for two hours from 8:00 am (1130 IST), although operations resumed two hours later.

Hospitals were staffed on a sabbath footing, as were public utilities, including the electricity board, trains were a halted and buses were only operating on a limited basis.
With public transportation reduced, many people could be seen flagging down private taxis or sheruts (shared taxis) in order to get to work, while others drove, causing huge traffic jams, AFP correspondents and media reports said.

The strike, which began at 6:00 am (0930 IST), had been due to continue indefinitely but its scope was limited to four hours following an all-night session by the National Labour Court which met after the collapse of talks between the powerful Histadrut trades union and the finance ministry.

In an early-morning ruling, the court ordered the Histadrut to resume talks with the treasury in order to find a solution to the issue of contract workers, and ordered both parties to report back on their progress by midday on Thursday.

Shortly after the strike ended, union boss Ofer Eini said the Histadrut would continue to fight for an end to the government's widespread practice of employing contract workers, who enjoy fewer rights and protections than civil service employees who are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

"The struggle for contract workers has only just begun," he said in a statement.

"We are determined to continue in order to reduce the phenomenon and we hope that the government and businesses will use these days granted by the court to conduct real and intensive negotiations to reach an agreement."

In its ruling, the court said that restricting the duration of the strike to four hours could help "advance the negotiations and allow dialogue which may bring about a negotiated resolution," media reports said.

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