Sharon appeals against general strike
The Jerusalem Post

April 8, 2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke out in favor of the emergency economic plan on Monday night, saying Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "deserves full backing and will get full backing."

Speaking at the Israel Venture Capital Association conference in Tel Aviv, Sharon called on Histadrut Chairman Amir Peretz "not to damage the economy with a strike."

"It is very hard, but we have no choice," Sharon said. "We cannot create problems for ourselves from the inside. We all have to do our part; it is not time for strikes."

Despite Sharon's urging, the Histadrut is still calling for a general strike on Wednesday, unless the government formally scraps its intention to legislate changes in the public sector wage system. Some 48 hours before the planned strike, Treasury and Histadrut officials were still not scheduled to resume negotiations over key aspects of the recovery plan.

Speaking Monday to a forum of Postal Authority workers, Netanyahu said he will legislate public sector wage cuts and reforms if the Treasury and Histadrut do not reach an agreement over salary cuts and layoffs.

Meanwhile, Knesset legal adviser Anna Schneider opposed the government's plan to push the economic recovery plan through a speedy approval process. Schneider said a proper legislative process requires time and cannot be done in a few days, as desired by Netanyahu. She recommended that certain measures in the plan be set aside for in-depth discussion in the appropriate Knesset committees.

The strike could bring Israel's economy to a grinding halt, including airports, seaports, water installations, oil refineries, and fuel depots. Since last week, government ministries and local authorities have been on strike.

Sharon pledged to increase government investment in hi-tech infrastructure. He said while taxes on foreign investment in Israeli hi-tech have been eliminated, "I know this is not enough."

"Hi-tech is key to Israel's future, both from a security and an economic standpoint," Sharon said.