Israeli unions announced on Sunday they were ending a general strike on its fifth day, after reaching agreement with treasury officials on the long-festering issue of contract workers. At a joint news conference, the head of the Histadrut labour federation and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that they had signed an accord to improve the conditions of contract workers employed in the public sector. “It’s a good agreement, very good even,” Steinitz said. “There is a significant improvement, not only in salary but more importantly in social benefits.” “It’s a ground-breaking agreement,” Histadrut chief Ofer Eini said. Contract employees have until now received lower salaries than permanent staff colleagues, few benefits, and could be fired without notice. A deal on the rights of contract workers was reached with private employers earlier in the week, but the government — said to employ the bulk of the contract workers — had been reluctant to sign a similar deal. Before the announcement, rubbish had been piling up on streets and drivers of the national bus corporation had joined the strike, disrupting travel on the first day of the Israeli working week. Ben Gurion international airport, railways and harbours were open on Sunday, and government offices and banks were to resume service during the course of the day. The issue of contract workers has been simmering for months, with the Histadrut staging a four-hour strike in the same dispute in November.