Israel strike: No agreement
Jerusalem - A public sector strike that has sapped Israel's economy entered its fifth day on Sunday, but ports were open for the first time in a possible sign of a breakthrough to end the labour action.
Israel's banks, stock market and government offices remained closed. Commuters faced disruptions in public transportation and trash bins overflowed as bus drivers and municipality workers pushed on with their protest.
"I'm sorry that the public is suffering, but our aim is a noble one," Ofer Eini, chair of the Histadrut labour federation, said late on Saturday during marathon negotiations with the Finance Ministry.
Histadrut, an umbrella organisation for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, declared the strike on Wednesday.
It is demanding that the government hire 250 000 contract workers, such as cleaners and security guards, whose conditions are inferior to those directly on government payrolls.
The Finance Ministry has said it cannot take on so many new workers but has offered to improve working conditions and significantly increase salaries.
Both sides have had to report on how the negotiations are going to a labour court, which has intervened to prevent such strikes in the past.
A Histadrut official said Israel's ports were open for the first time since the strike began and the flight schedule at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, which had closed periodically last week, showed no delays.