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Wage Cuts for 150,000 Workers Introduced in Israel; No Strike is Expected

Despite threats by left-wing groups of widespread strikes, the wages of about 15.0,000 organized industrial workers in Israel will be cut as of today, following the quarterly revision of the cost-of-living agreement between the Histadrut, Israel’s Federation of Labor, and the Manufacturers Association.

At a stormy meeting of the Histadrut executive last night, it was decided to support the signing of an agreement under which the manufacturers will cut the allowance to workers for the high cost of living in proportion with the drop in the cost-of-living index. The slash in wages will be approximately $7.20 weekly for each worker.

Representatives of Mapam, the left-wing United Workers Party, abstained from voting on this issue at the Histadrut executive’s session. They demanded the establishment of a special committee to verify the index figures and suggested the holding of a referendum among workers on the entire question. However, their demands were rejected by the majority of the executive, composed of members of the pro-government Mapai Party.

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES DROP IN COST-OF-LIVING INDEX SINCE APRIL

The Israeli Government announced yesterday that the cost-of-living index has dropped nine points in June to 350, or 21 points from the April record high of 371 when the last agreement between the Histadrut and the Manufacturers Association was signed. The drop in the cost-of-living index reflects, according to an official spokesman, the preliminary success of the government’s austerity program which was inaugurated in May and was intensified last month. The government’s campaign against inflation and for economic stability, however, calls for reduction of wages, in accordance with the reduction in the cost of living.

While this policy of the government has the support of a majority of the members of the Histadrut executive, the left-wingers, who are members of the Mapam and the Communist Party, strongly oppose any wage reductions at this time. Their arguments are levelled against the official cost-of-living index which, they assert, is based on “food-basket standards” that no longer apply. Two weeks ago, the Communists threatened a series of strikes against wage cute, and the Mapam started to collect funds for the prospective strikers. It appears, however, that they have reconsidered that step.

Since the majority of workers want to give the government a chance to realize its anti-inflation program, and since neither left-wing party commands enough support within the labor movement at this time to assure success, it is believed that labor will abstain from calling strikes immediately. It is seen as more likely that the Israeli labor leaders will concentrate on plans for serious resistance to the next wage cute, which are due October 25.

The government’s compulsory education bill was before the Knesset today for enactment. Providing for the introduction of country-wide free compulsory schooling in three stages, the bill stipulates that all children between the ages of 6 and 11 must attend classes by September of this year, with children in other age brackets coming under the measure’s jurisdiction within the next two years. Approximately 112,000 youngsters now attend school in Israel, while the government estimates that Israel’s school-age population will reach 200,000 within three years.

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