Israel implements emergency economic plan to survive virus

More than 500,000 Israelis have filed for unemployment benefits since the beginning of March. 

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

On Saturday night, the Ministry of Finance announced that an emergency economic plan would be implemented beginning Sunday.

The plan puts 70 percent of government employees on paid leave using built-up vacation days. It reduces public transportation even further. And it limits activity within the economic and industrial sectors.

The economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has led to 503,915 Israelis filing for unemployment benefits. Ninety-one percent of those who filed were placed on unpaid leave from their workplaces. Nearly half of the employers in Israel have placed some or all of their employees on unpaid leave.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his goal is to increase dramatically the number of coronavirus checks every day in order to locate and isolate virus carriers.

This way, he said, it would be possible to release healthy people back to the labor market. “This is how we will sustain the economy,” Netanyahu said.

“We will increase the number of tests, with the consent of the Ministry of Health. By tomorrow morning, we will perform 3,000 tests daily, soon we will reach 10,000 daily, and we may reach 20,000 daily as well. I want mass blood tests on a large scale. This way we can isolate the virus carriers,” the prime minister said.

Director of the Treasury Shai Babad warned over the weekend that if the public did not respect the Ministry of Health’s stay-at-home orders, the damage to the economy would be catastrophic.

An emergency agreement signed overnight Thursday states that 70 percent of government employees will be placed on paid leave until April 16. They will be required to use their personal vacation days.

The agreement applies to civil servants, local authorities, religious councils, the National Insurance Institute and other governmental bodies.

The agreement applies to employees who are not defined as essential, while essential employees will continue working as usual.

The Commissioner of Wages and Labor Agreements at the Ministry of Finance, Kobi Bar-Nathan, and the chairman of the Histadrut Arnon Bar-David signed the agreement.

The emergency agreement was made in accordance with the significant restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Health on the number of employees in the workplace.

The agreement distinguishes between an essential employee, as determined by his manager or by law, who is required to continue coming to work, and employees not defined as essential, who will be told to stay at home.

Non-essential employees who have not accrued enough vacation days for the entirety of the leave will have the additional time subtracted from future vacation days.

The agreement also stipulated that the Histadrut and employers would set up a joint “vacation days fund” to assist those employees who do not have sufficient vacation days for the entirety of the leave. The fund will work on the principle of “mutual guarantee” and in accordance with a future collective agreement.

For workplaces that close their offices and require their employees to use vacation days during the Passover holiday, there will be no changes.