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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Israel's unions end strike
People looking at delayed flights at Ben-Gurion Airport
The strikes have disrupted air travel

The five-day strike that has brought Israel's economy to a standstill has been called off.

Israel's finance ministry said a deal has been reached with the country's main public sector unions.

The Histadrut labour federation and the Finance Ministry agreed on public sector wage and job cuts.

The two sides said they would continue to discuss the ministry's plans for pension reform, a ministry spokesman said.

Lost business

Israeli workers were protesting at government plans to try to save 11bn shekels ($2.4bn) from the budget as Israel struggles with its worst ever recession.

The Histadrut had protested against the package passed in a first reading by parliament on 30 April.

It was the first time in Israel that an austerity package had come through a bill passed by parliament instead of negotiations with the unions.

Business leaders estimated Israel's already recession-hit economy lost 3 billion shekels ($660m) because of the strike.

New legislation

About 4,000 people lost their jobs and nearly 2 billion shekels of commercial cargo was left unloaded at the country's ports.

Rubbish piled up on the streets, flights were held up, banks closed, as did the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, government offices, railways and municipalities.

Hospitals were open for emergencies only, and the country's telephone, electric and water companies did not carry out repairs.

The Bank of Israel was also unable to set official exchange rates for the shekel.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would use legislation to limit national strikes in the future.

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