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Israel Cabinet Acts to Use Emergency Laws Against Striking Engineers

The Israel Cabinet decided today, at its weekly meeting, to authorize Dr. Giora Josephthal, Minister for Housing and Development, to declare a state of emergency, without further reference to the Government, in an effort to force the 6,000 striking engineers, chemists, architects and agronomists to end their walk-out.

The strike, now in its 18th day, is being prolonged due to disagreement between the Government and the Engineers’ Union about the latter’s demand for a salary increase of 16;5 percent;

Prior to invoking the emergency, the Cabinet will issue another appeal to the strikers, all of whom are employed by public institutions, to return to work. Should this appeal fail, Mr. Josephthal has been authorized to invoke emergency regulations, to ensure sufficient manpower for essential services.

Dr. Josephthal had reported to the Cabinet that electric power has been interrupted and the construction of housing for immigrants has been interfered with, due to the strike; These are the services which the Housing and Development Minister are now empowered to declare as “essential services,” giving him the right to recruit manpower to perform the needed work as “required by the State.”

The Cabinet decision was taken after Finance Minister Levi Eshkol had issued a public statement, in which he blamed the strikers for refusing to accept terms he had offered them a few days ago in a meeting with the leaders of their union; “They came forward with new demands which could not be accepted,” he said; On its part, the Engineers’ Union issued a statement declaring that it had hoped Mr. Eshkol would “bring some suggestions to solve the problem; ” Since the Finance Minister had “come out only with a demand that we return to work, there could be no return unless some of the demands are dealt with,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the possibility of another strike–this time by salaried physicians–was in the offing today. Lite the striking engineers, the Medical Association is dissatisfied with what they alleged is the “narrowing of the gap” between salaries paid professionals and wages paid to non-academic workers;

A committee representing the Government and Histadrut has offered the salaried physicians an increase of two percent. The Medical Association, insisting that only an 18 percent increase would “narrow the gap, “voted today to “take all measures to ensure the meeting of the Just demands for 18 percent;”

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