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Lockout in Israel’s Metal Industry Threatens to Develop into Major Issue in Country

The lockout of some 2,500 workers in the metal producing plants of Israel today threatened to become one of the major issues facing the government and the country as the Histadrut announced new and drastic measures in support of the locked-out workers.

The labor federation decided to call a 30-minute nationwide sympathy strike; the time has not yet been fixed. It also called on all members of the Histadrut to contribute one day’s pay to the support of the locked out workers. In addition, it demanded that the government penalize the metal products manufacturers association by withdrawing from it the right to distribute raw materials in the industry.

The Histadrut charges that the manufacturers association has applied pressure for political reasons on individual manufacturers to join the lockout. Mordecai Namir, secretary of the Histadrut, today labelled the lockout an “anti-labor and anti-democratic move which the manufacturers will regret.”

Last night, Premier David Ben Gurion, at a meeting of the Israel Manufacturers Association, which was attended by over 1,000 industrialists and members of the Cabinet and Parliament, urged the employers to subordinate their private interests to the security needs of the country. He insisted that the primary task of “our generation” is to gather in the exiles and on all other matters, except securities needs, to make compromises. He reiterated the government’s pledge that it will not interfere with the right of labor to strike.

Minister of Finance Eliezer Kaplan, who also addressed the meeting, stressed that higher prices and wages at this time are harmful to the economy of the nation. He urged more private investments in Negev projects. Arie Shonkar, head of the Israel Manufacturers Association, recalled the gigantic strides made by Israel’s industry since the establishment of the state. He urged the government to reform its wage and price policy, insisting that higher wages be granted only in proportion to higher productivity rates.

Simon Bejarano, vice-president of the association, declared that the metal trades dispute is a test case for some 80,000 industrial workers who are insisting on wage increases which he estimated to amount to 1,000,000 pounds a year. This, he asserted, will mean inflation and will cut the ability of Israel’s manufactured goods to compete in the foreign markets.

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