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Israel shuttered in general strike

A general strike organized by Israel's main trade union, Histradrut, closed rail stations, ports, and its airport.

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A deserted departures hall is pictured during a six-hour strike at the Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on Febuary 8, 2012. Half a million Israeli public and private sector workers went on general strike, shutting down government offices, banks and airport traffic over the rights of contract workers. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images) (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Israel ground to a halt for the second day on Thursday due to a general strike initiated by the country's largest trade union. Half a million workers did not show up for work to protest the use of contract labor, workers who are paid less, have fewer benefits and less job security.

Overnight talks were extended and an agreement was not reached, continuing yesterday's strike for another day, Haaretz reported. "Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, and the head of the Manufacturer’s association of Israel failed to yield an agreement," the paper said. 

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Ben Gurion airport employees were ordered by the labor federation to return to work on Thursday, but flights were disrupted yesterday during a six hour strike.

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Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said: "The only weapon workers have is the weapon of a strike," according to Reuters.

The Israeli government hires contract workers for janitorial services and pays them much less than other employees. The government balked at union demands to hire the workers as full employees, ensuring them pension and other rights, and instead offered to raise their wages 20 to 25 percent, Haaretz said. Cleaning companies said the raises would put an end up their business.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120209/israel-shuttered-general-strike