Israel Cabinet Discusses Engineers’ Strike; Physicians Support Strikers

Israel’s Cabinet today discussed the four-day old strike of the nation’s 6,000 salaried engineers, who walked off their jobs in public institutions last Thursday, demanding higher pay. Sharp criticisms against the Engineers’ Union were voiced during the Cabinet session as word was received that salaried physicians will stage a four-hour solidarity strike tomorrow morning, in support of the striking engineers.

The physicians, who will halt work between 8 a. m. and noon, are those employed on salaries by the Histadrut Sick Fund; Malben, the Joint Distribution Committee’s network of institutions for the care of aged, sick and handicapped immigrants; Hadassah; and municipal health institutions on governmental and local levels. The Israel Medical Association announced that, during the doctors’ stoppage, emergency cases will be treated by physicians at their homes.

The Engineers Union tightened its lines today by announcing at Tel Aviv that it is withdrawing work permits issued previously to members employed in essential work, including the water and electricity supply enterprises. The strike committee announced that permits for “essential” work will be reduced to a minimum. As a result, it was feared today, the broad public in Israel will start feeling the effects of the strike.

Union leaders insisted today that their demands for higher wages must be met to maintain the “logical gap” between the wages of persons with academic degrees and “ordinary workers.” They claimed that, as a result of recent increases in workers wages, “this gap is now too narrow.”

GOVERNMENT TO RAISE ISSUE IN KNESSET; MAPAI OPPOSES STRIKE

Meanwhile, in the Cabinet, the Government decided today that engineers employed by the Government will not be paid for their time off due to the strike. The Government emphasized the fact that the walk-out had been staged after the engineers had previously agreed to abide by the findings on wages of a committee on which the union was represented.

Not only the Government, but Histadrut–Israel’s Federation of Labor–and the Mapai Party are opposing the strike. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told the Cabinet today that he will make a statement on the strike to the Knesset (Parliament) Tuesday. It is understood that the Government will not oppose a full-scale debate on the issue in the Knesset.

The Mapai Party central committee was reported today to be considering action against those of its members who have joined the walk-out. Members of the striking union who are also members of Mapai have joined the strike despite their party’s opposition.

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