TEL AVIV (Sep. 7)
The wild-cat strike by 800 civil aviation workers which paralyzed Lydda Airport yesterday, ended today after a stern warning was issued by Histadrut Secretary General Yitzhak Ben Aharon that the strikers faced back-to-work action. But striking customs officials at Lydda and Ashdod continued their walk-out and discontent was reportedly mounting among workers in large factories who are demanding higher cost-of-living allowances. Ben Aharon promised the aviation workers that their wage negotiations would begin immediately and urged them to wait for the results. The ten-hour strike created chaos for hundreds of airline passengers who either couldn’t leave Israel or couldn’t land there.
Many travelers were stranded at foreign airports. When the strike began, in-air flights were diverted to Cyprus and Greece. Passengers who did land at Lydda were forced to carry their luggage from plane to terminal and then to taxis. Eilat, which is almost wholly dependent on air transportation, was virtually isolated until domestic flights were resumed this morning. International air traffic returned to normal but with some delays in the aftermath of the strike. More serious for Israel’s economy was the customs strike which has halted the movement of cargo at Lydda and Ashdod, Israel’s second largest seaport. Stores and bonded warehouses were filled to capacity and many export orders had to be cancelled because they depended on delivery dates that the strike made impossible to meet. Ships waiting to unload at Ashdod were diverted to Haifa where customs men are still on duty.
The situation in the factories stemmed from the devaluation of the Israel pound and the subsequent price increases. Workers, some influenced by Mapam, threatened to “go to the barricades” unless their demands were met. Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir was denounced as “anti-labor.” Deputy Premier Yigal Allon took off from strike-bound Lydda Airport on a special diplomatic mission to Scandinavia yesterday but only with the help of the Israel Airforce which was not subject to strike action. A “Nord” transport flew Allon to Athens where he boarded a regular flight to Scandinavia today.