El Al Strike Settled but Workers Demand ‘conditions’ for Staying on Jobs

EI AI was on the way to resuming normal service today following settlement of one of the worst labor disputes in its history. The settlement, a conditional one, was reached early this morning after a night of tortuous bargaining between Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, secretary general of Histadrut, his aides, and the nine committees of El Al employes representing striking workers and their supporters.

Agreement was reached when the workers were satisfied that heavy fines levied against them by a district labor relations court would be lifted or greatly reduced and that the government would rescind its back-to-work order issued Monday to striking ground maintenance crews. El Al managed to get six flights off the ground today and sent out a seventh in a chartered BOAC jet. A full schedule of flights is expected to be resumed tomorrow. The airline’s losses from the three-day strike are estimated between $1-$2 million.

Histadrut stepped in late yesterday after a ministerial committee on economic affairs decided at a special meeting here to suspend all EI AI services. The decision was taken after 1000 clerical employes and flight stewards voted to join 500 striking workshop employes at Lydda Airport. The latter walked out yesterday in sympathy with ground maintenance crews who were forced to end their earlier walk-out by the back-to-work order issued by Transport Minister Shimon Peres.

Ben-Aharon convened El Al’s workers’ committees last night. They demanded cancellation of the back-to-work order, the fines and all other juridical measures underway. They also insisted on outside arbitration if their claims against management are not satisfied through negotiations. Ben-Aharon refused to agree to “conditions” or to put his signature on any agreement. But he promised that Histadrut would seek ways to cancel or reduce the fines and to prevail on Peres to rescind the back-to-work order.

Shortly after agreement was reached this morning Peres announced that he was cancelling his back-to-work order. The payment of fines was postponed for three weeks during which efforts will be made through the Supreme Court to cancel them or reduce them to a negligible minimum.

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