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Histadrut Protests Against Boosting of Taxes on Consumer Products

The Histadrut, Israel’s labor federation, protested today against the increases in customs duties and excise taxes on a variety of imported consumer products announced last week by the Treasury. In a letter to Minister of Finance Levi Eshkol, Aharon Becker, Acting Secretary General of the Histadrut, asked for an urgent meeting to present the Histadrut’s arguments against the increases.

Announcing the Histadrut’s opposition to higher taxes on such essential products as cooking gas and coffee, Mr. Becker expressed grave doubts about the Government’s estimate that the higher levies would raise the cost-of-living index by only one quarter of a point. The Histadrut leader charged that the Treasury made the estimate without consulting the Central Bureau of Statistics, the official authority responsible for calculating the index.

Meanwhile, a four-man arbitration committee, headed by Minister of Finance Levi Eshkol, decided today in favor of awarding Israeli workers a cost-of-living increase to be paid retroactively from July 15.

The issue was referred to arbitration after the Israel Manufacturers Association protested a decision by Mr. Eshkol granting the increase, in spite of the fact that the cost-of-living index had not risen the full two points necessary for the paying of such an increase, according to a formal agreement between the manufacturers and the Government. The index is calculated every six months.

The Histadrut had insisted on the increase, claiming that actual living costs had gone up more that that indicated by the official 1.84 index rise for the half-year period. It is assumed that the manufacturers will now abide by the arbitration decision, particularly since the Finance Minister already announced the increase for Government workers.

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