11,000 Nurses in Israeli Hospitals on Strike; All but Emergency Medical Services Shut Down

A strike of 11,000 nurses employed at all Israeli hospitals began this morning despite 11th hour attempts by the Government to avert it. The strike shut down all but emergency medical services and threatened to destroy the wage-price package deal painstakingly worked out by the Government earlier this year to fight inflation. The Government claims that if the nurses’ wage demands are met the delicate economic balance between wages, prices and taxes would collapse. The nurses say their demands are not outside the framework of the package deal. They say they are not demanding higher wages but that the nature of their work entitles them to be placed in a higher wage category. According to the Government, this would be the “first crack” in the carefully maintained status quo on wages. The Government proposed to establish a special committee to “measure” the volume of work performed by nurses. Premier Golda Meir added her own weight with a fervent plea to the nurses not to strike. But the strike was declared nevertheless, beginning at seven a.m. local time today. The nurses’ strike has been threatening for several weeks along with new wage demands from longshoremen that Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir has declared inflationary. Mr. Sapir is the author of the so-called package deal in which management and labor agreed to shelve price increases and wage demands in return for a Government pledge not to initiate major tax rises during the current fiscal year. The Government has been embroiled in a controversy with Histadrut whose secretary general Yitzhak Ben Aharon has been backing the wage demands by nurses and longshoremen despite the terms of the package deal.

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