Israeli general strike averted as government pledges improved worker safety

By Steven Scheer

By Steven Scheer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's main public sector union called off a general strike planned for Wednesday after the government pledged to improve safety around construction sites that have seen a spate of worker deaths from falls.

The new measures agreed in negotiations on Tuesday included adopting European certification standards for scaffolding, instituting the use of safety netting and increasing the number of safety inspectors, both sides said.

"This is an historic development that will spare many lethal work accidents and prevent the injury or death of dozens of workers a year," Avi Nissenkorn, chief of the Histadrut labour federation, said in a statement.

The Histadrut says about 40 workers have died on building sites so far in 2018 and 200 others have been seriously injured.

Labour activists say 35 people died in 2017 and the Haaretz newspaper said the number of such deaths in previous years had averaged around 30.

The strike would have shut down airports, banks and all government offices in Israel indefinitely. According to the Histadrut, Israeli polling firm Smith had found 66 percent of Israelis supported any strike action.

"I am happy that we reached agreements that prevented a strike which would have harmed millions of Israelis who want to go to work and send their children to kindergarten and school," Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said.

(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Gareth Jones and Alison Williams)