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21 Mar, 2007 11:31

Israel paralysed as thousands demand salaries

Israel paralysed as thousands demand salaries

In Israel, tens of thousands of municipal workers have gone on strike to demand salaries, leaving public services paralysed. The walkout is estimated to be costing Israel's economy tens of millions of dollars a day.

The action was launched by the country's Labour Union after talks with the government broke down overnight. 

The strike has left people throughout the country unable to get on with their daily lives. Citizens no longer have access to vital services like buses, railways, firefighting, post or telephone. Moreover, all flights in and out of Israel have been halted, leaving travellers stranded in airports. 

Israel's Labour Union claims thousands of municipal workers haven't been paid for months. The walkout began Wednesday morning after last-minute talks broke down between the government and the Union. 

‘We want every last worker to get his salary today. We didn't get such guarantees from either the Interior Ministry or the Finance Ministry. So we started a general strike at 9.00 a.m.,’ Ofer Eini, Labour federation chief, said.  

However, the government places the blame on local authorities saying poor planning has left them with heavy debts. 

The action could potentially disrupt the arrival of England's national football team for the Euro 2008 qualifier on Saturday, but the Labour Union agreed to open the airport just for their flight. Around 4000 England fans were also expected to arrive, but it's still not clear whether their planes will be allowed in.