Advocates Say Another Strike May Be Needed
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 11, 2003
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL--Treasury officials have recently commented to the media that they may reduce disability benefits in order to balance the state budget.
A group of disability advocates said they are ready to strike against the government to prevent that, adding that the government has failed to keep promises it made to increase benefits to end a strike over a year ago.
The group warned that any reduction in their allowances would "spark a very sharp response from us." They said that two previous strikes would "look like a picnic."
Disability rights activists organized a strike against the government for increased benefits in late 1999. Two years later, they held a 77-day strike that ended with a signed agreement from the government to start paying supplemental benefits.
Since that strike ended on February 28, 2002, the National Insurance Institute (NII) has not paid the supplemental benefits as promised in the agreement.
Officials claim that the overall budget for disability-related benefits has grown substantially over the past decade, while the number of people with disabilities has increased nearly three hundred percent -- primarily due to immigration.
Advocates argue that the benefits they currently receive actually keep them below the poverty line, and do not consider their specific transportation, medical, physical and personal care needs.
"A handicap in our bitter experience is something very expensive, it's a luxury," Yoav Kraiem told Ha'aretz independent news service. "Even if a handicapped person works and earns a salary as a healthy person would and no handicap allowance is paid, his living expenses will still be a lot higher and his available income will be smaller. A handicapped person has special expenses that a healthy person doesn't have: a wheelchair, daily physical therapy, medications, a round-the-clock need for caretakers and a long list of other things."
"The handicapped threaten to return to the barricades" (Ha'aretz)