Arnon Bar David, Histadrut Chairman (Photograph: Histadrut press office)
"People Need Certainty"

"Such a catastrophe is the country's responsibility, Start releasing funds," demands Bar-David

At the Knesset's special committee on dealing with the COVID-19, Histadrut Chairman demanded an immediate emergency response for Israeli airlines: "These companies need an immediate dose of oxygen. Without it, Israel will be left without airlines."

29.03.2020, 14:26

In anticipation for the government to put forward its economic crisis response plan, the Knesset conducted a special discussion on the current situation. Shai Babbad, Treasury Director General, outlined in vague details the financial stimulus package that is expected to be around NIS 80 billion. The plan, according to Babbad, once approved by the government, will provide assistance to the health sector, the social safety net for employees, self-employed, freelancers, the sustainability of business, and economic stimulus to bring the economy back to full capacity once the crisis is over.

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"We are the last state, or among the last, to enter into an economic plan because of a fierce debate with the treasury," Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David said during his remarks at the special committee at the Knesset to deal with the Coronavirus crisis. "the question is whether the government is going to put its hand in its pocket and pay."

"I expected that after all the discussions, there would be a little clearer economic plan. A plan that would accurately define how the state's money should be transferred to the workplaces and employers. I still don't see how that money reaches them, and I'm not sure we will know it – even after the plan is adopted," Noted Bar-David. "There is some progress, but I do not see the solutions coming. In this catastrophic situation, people want some dimension of certainty or, to the extent possible, something to dispel the uncertainty – that is the importance of the economic plan."

The chairman of the Histadrut criticized the intention further to reduce industrial activity and some of the essential industries: We must not close these branches and must not close the State of Israel. It will be tough to get out of this situation, and it will take a long time for the economy to recover. Adjustments have been made at the industrial plants – fewer workers are working in separate spaces and should be allowed to continue to work. The Israeli economy needs to have the growth engines from the current state."

Meanwhile, Bar-David called on Ministry of Finance Director General Shai Babad to include in the economic plan tools for the immediate support for Israeli airlines: "The airlines – need immediate oxygen. Otherwise, they will collapse, and we will remain without airlines."

Bar-David noted that the aid package for self-employed is not satisfactory: "You have to take the self-employed sector with the freelancers, see what they submitted in the previous months, check their financial cycles, and accordingly give them a sum that will serve as unemployment benefits. It should be up to NIS 10,500 depending on what they receive. Of course, it does not require the legislation or the next moves because it depends on changing the regulations, but this is the way to handle them properly. It will cost some more money, but this is a substantial sector that needs to be dealt with. Some self-employed have employees – and they need to take this into account and give them a dimension of certainty. They need to know that they are not less worthy than other workers. "

Histadrut chairman also addressed criticism of the public sector, saying: "The public sector that I am leading was the first to carry the burden two weeks ago, with the agreement to reduce labor in the economy, together with employers and the business sector on a scheme for furloughed workers. Vacation days at the expense of workers. It's not a simple thing. The public sector has given its share and given the government and the Finance Ministry the opportunity and quiet in the economy to take care of other affected industries."

In his remarks, the Histadrut Chairman said: "This catastrophe has a state at the edge. Everyone here pays taxes and a lot, including the public sector. The state needs to find the resources to get people out of the catastrophe and prevent social and economic crises. This is the time of the government, stop being with a clenched fist, and start letting go. Not to go wild but to give the economy a safety net so that it can keep moving forward."


Brought to press with the help of the International Relations Division of the Histadrut