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Court Orders Strikers Back to Work

For the first time in the history of Israel, a court intervened in a labor dispute when a Tel Aviv district court issued an order today directing striking customs officials at Lydda Airport to return to work immediately. The order was issued at the request of Tel Aviv District Attorney Ittamar Pilpel. The strikers were not represented at the hearing request. The order was based on a recently-passed law requiring a two-week “cooling off” period between announcement of plans for a strike and the start of the strike. Prison terms are provided for failure to obey such an order.

Prior to the court action, representatives of the striking customs officials told a press conference that if the government would issue an order, the strike would be called off. The representatives blamed the Finance Ministry for their walkout, contending Ministry red tape had caused “such a delay” in discussing and meeting their demands for higher pay. The workers also claimed that the volume of goods they must inspect had increased “many-fold” but that no additional customs inspectors had been assigned to the work. They demanded 12 more customs officials be assigned to Lydda Airport and expressed bitterness against the Histadrut, Israel’s Labor Federation, claiming the Histadrut had not backed their protest.

The customs strike has seriously effected Israel’s exports. The Treasury moved today to allow shippers to by-pass customs clearance for export items and deferred export duty payments. It was not immediately clear how the striking customs officials would react to the order from the court, as distinct from a government order which they said they would obey. Commenting on the court order, Itzhak Ben Aharon, Histadrut Secretary-General, said tonight that the Histadrut would “carefully examine” the legality of the court order. He added it was “not healthy” for courts to intervene in what should be matters between unions and employers. However, he had previously asked the striking customs inspectors to return to work because their walkout had not been authorized by Histadrut.

LYDDA STRIKE ‘PURE HOOLIGANISM’

The leadership of Israel’s Labor Alignment met for seven hours last night on Israel’s steadily worsening labor strife. Premier Golda Meir, furious over a wildcat strike of civil aviation workers which paralyzed Lydda Airport for 10 hours Monday, demanded at the meeting that illegal strikes be punished by law. She also denounced charges that her government was anti-labor. The Alignment faction in the Histadrut scheduled an urgent session today to discuss means to prevent wildcat strikes and to establish orderly procedures for calling strikes.

Mrs. Meir, who was vacationing when the Lydda strike occurred, summoned the Labor Alignment leadership to the urgent meeting. Most Cabinet ministers attended including Defense Minister Moshe Dayan who rarely intervenes in economic matters, Mrs. Meir’s anger was aroused by the failure of the Lydda employes to give 48 hours strike notice as stipulated by law. “If strikers do not give notice they must know they are breaking the law and in democratic countries breakers of law are punished even by prison sentences,” she said, “If they don’t give notice and get off scot free there is no value to the law.”

Mrs. Meir declared: “I cannot sit idly and watch as things are deteriorating and approaching a catastrophe. I do not agree to sit on a government when there is an alleged class struggle between it and the workers. I shall not agree in the twilight of my years to head a government which is called a ‘millionaires-maker.'” Mrs. Meir called the Lydda strike “pure hooliganism” and warned that “radical unrest of the kind we have been experiencing has brought fascism to many countries.” She had caustic words for her Alignment partner, Mapam, which she accused of acting in the strike situation as if it were not in the government. Finance Minister Pin has Sapir told the meeting that he could not prepare next year’s budget under the present circumstances.

COMMUNICATIONS WITH WORLD ENDANGERED

Mrs. Meir was reported to want the firm backing of Histadrut on labor relations laws and was refusing to discuss them in the Knesset until she was assured of such Histadrut support. However, the Knesset plans to take up the issue Monday on motion of 30 MKs of the opposition Gahal and Free Center factions. Addressing a press conference on aliyah in Jerusalem today, Jewish Agency Chairman Louis A. Pincus said the current wave of strikes in Israel was very bad for the country’s image. He urged labor leaders to take into account the negative influence of their strike actions on fund-raising for Israel.

Meanwhile, the entire technical and engineering staff of Israel’s Post Office threatened to walk out the day after Rosh Hashanah in support of their wage demands. Such a strike would sever Israel’s telephone, radio, telegraph and telex connections with the rest of the world. Jerusalem’s mall carriers meanwhile escalated their work slowdown by refusing to deliver printed matter, greeting cards, postcards, and other pieces of mall “heavier than normal or unusual in size.” Their previous slowdown had been limited to registered letters.

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