JERUSALEM (Aug. 9)
Premier Golda Meir signed tonight emergency regulations ordering striking doctors to return to their posts in government hospitals. She did so after Health Minister Victor Shemtov informed her that his Mapam Party had ordered him not to sign those regulations. No Cabinet crisis was expected over his refusal. The 2,000 striking doctors in government and joint governmental-municipal hospitals will return to work tomorrow. If both Mapam and Premier Meir’s Labor alignment decide that the emergency regulations are not a matter of principle, on which differences require dissolution of the Cabinet, then no coalition crisis will occur. The Mapam stand was known beforehand and Mapam Ministers in the Cabinet voted yesterday against imposition of the back-to-work orders. Shemtov signed similar orders last June to compel the return to work of striking administrative and service hospital workers. Though he had party approval to do so, he was severely criticized for the action within his party. Mapam’s view is that the government should not interfere with what the party regards as a basic right of the worker, the right to strike. The emergency regulations require the doctors to do their work fully and properly on penalty of dismissal with loss of severance pay and imposition of fines or jail terms.
The regulations remain in force for three months and then must be prolonged by the Knesset or lapse automatically. The Knesset has scheduled a session for tomorrow to discuss the objections of opposition members. Dr. Gideon Manelis, chairman of the doctors’ union, told newsmen that the doctors would “bow to the law” but would refuse to negotiate their demands while the regulations were in effect. Dr. Noach Kaplinsky, chairman of the Medical Association, also expressed regret over the decision to invoke the emergency regulations. He said that the action had “aggravated” the problem of the working conditions which the doctors had been protesting, rather than bringing it closer to solution. Preparations meanwhile continued for issuance of a back-to-work order to the Elat power station workers, who operate a desalination project there on which both people and local industries are dependent for water supplies. The desalination units were shut down for seven hours last night. Both groups of strikers are asking for more pay.