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Pay Deal Ends Israel's Paralyzing General Strike

A one-day general strike that paralyzed Israel for one day ended when the government agreed to pay municipal workers. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the pay dispute pitted an influential trade union against the government, which is demanding reforms in public spending.

Some 150,000 Israeli workers walked off the job, crippling air and seaports, railways, government offices, postal services and the stock exchange. Israel's powerful Histadrut Labor Federation called the strike because thousands of municipal workers had not been paid for months. The government says the salaries were not paid because of mismanagement by local authorities, which exceeded their budgets and failed to implement reforms.

Finance Minister Avraham Hirschson said the strike was irresponsible.

"I don't see any justification for holding the economy of the state of Israel hostage," Hirschson said.

This municipality worker, who was promised his salary five months ago, said he is fed up.

"When the money is in the bank I'll go back to work," he said.

About eight hours into the strike, the Histadrut and the treasury reached an agreement.

Trade union leader Ofer Eini announced that municipal workers will be paid and the strike is over.

But the damage was done. The short strike cost the Israeli economy an estimated $200 million.