Israel’s principal public sector union, Histadrut, has launched a nationwide strike that will shut down airports, seaports, post offices, hospitals, stock exchanges, banks, railways and government offices.

The union in protesting measures by the government that favors using contract workers rather than permanent employees. Such temporary workers typically receive less salary and fewer benefits that permanent staff.

On Tuesday, Israel’s high court rejected a petition by the chamber of commerce to prevent the strike. Talks between Histadrut and the financial ministry also collapsed overnight.

The government contends that strike action is unnecessary and will cost the country’s economy $100-million every day (other estimates of the damage are as high as $500-million).

This strike is not only unnecessary, but it endangers the Israeli market, the Israeli economy and the citizens of Israel, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio.

The Histadrut union wants the government to hire 250,000 contract workers -- including cleaners and security guards – as full-time employees.

The finance ministry countered that it was unable to add so many works to its payroll, but as a concession offered to raise their pay by 20 percent, improve their working conditions and award more holiday leave – terms the union rejected.

The only weapon workers have is the weapon of a strike, said the union's chairman, Ofer Eini, in a statement.

Histadrut conducted a similar strike last November over the same grievances, however a court limited the action to only four hours and ordered both sides to hammer out a compromise.