Firefighters oppose gov’t reform

Firefighters oppose gov’t reform

03 February 2012

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Israel — Government aims to dismantle municipal unions, subject Fire Department to Public Security Ministry. Officials say reform will pass despite objections

The Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs will discuss Sunday a bill seeking to establish a national firefighting force – a move that has met fierce opposition among firefighters.

Firefighters’ Union Chairman Yoav Gadesi said: “We object to the reform and did not approve it.”

The bill is a direct result of the Carmel Fire. December 2010’s blaze, which raged for four days and nights, claimed 44 lives. It aims to set up a national firefighting force instead of the municipal forces that currently make up the Israel Fire and Rescue Services.

According to the initiative, within two years the entire Fire Department would become part of the Public Security Ministry.

Regardless of the firefighters’ protests, ministry officials said that “dozens of meetings with firefighting and union representatives preceded the decision on the reform, influencing its content and making sure that the working conditions and future of the firefighters are safeguarded”.

The ministry official confirmed the existence of disagreements, one of them concerns the right to strike, but stressed that the reform will go through even without agreement.

“If one whishes to build a large organization similar to a police force, certain things cannot be allowed, including canceling large drill, similar to the one we held last year,” the official noted. “We do agree on many things and aim for a dialogue,” he concluded.

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