TEL AVIV (May. 15)
A threatened strike that would have shut down Israel’s canning industry was averted last night when the Manufacturers Association agreed to a compromise proposed by Premier Golda Meir and accepted earlier by Histadrut’s Central Committee. Histadrut’s Secretary General Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, who submitted his resignation yesterday in protest against government intervention in the strike, said today that he was taking a few days off at his Kibbutz Givat Chaim home to ponder and possibly reconsider his decision.
Ben-Aharon’s resignation was welcomed by centrist and rightist political factions but the Histadrut “strong man” received overwhelming support from workers who urged him to withdraw his resignation. Two hour strikes in support of his stand against government intervention erupted today in factories and workshops all over Israel and at Lydda Airport. At Ashdod seaport, a hot-bed of labor militancy, workers said they would strike for two hours every day until Ben-Aharon withdraws his resignation.
But the State List, a breakaway faction founded some years ago by former Premier David Ben-Gurion, condemned Ben-Aharon’s actions as anti-State and said his resignation could only be welcomed, A similar statement was issued by David Shifman, chairman of the Liberal Party’s economic committee. Ben-Aharon’s resignation could open a new chapter In labor relations in Israel, the statement said.
At the same time, the messages of support, pouring in from workers committees from Eilat and Timna in the Negev to Safad in Galilee, seemed to pave the way for Ben-Aharon to change his mind without losing face. “Such expressions of support–more than I deserve–compel me to weigh the decision of the labor committees that call on me to return to my post, ” the Histadrut leader said today.
EASY CHOICE BUT NOT RESPONSIBLE ONE
Details of the compromise that averted the cannery strike at the 11th hour were not disclosed this morning. It reportedly included an extension of paid vacations for per diem employes and a 13-year deadline alter which per diem employes in the canning plants would gain the statue and benefits of monthly employes. The agreement, however, was reportedly restricted to the canning industry.
Though the cannery dispute was settled without serious repercussions for Israel’s economy, It revived the ongoing power struggle between the government and Histadrut.
At a Labor Party leadership meeting last night at Mrs. Meir’s office In Jerusalem, Ben-Aharon charged that the Party and the government had shown a lack of confidence in Histadrut. He accused the government of taking sides in the dispute. Labor Minister Yosef Almogi challenged Ben-Aharon’s contention. He said there were many precedents for government intervention and recalled that the government took the initiative some years ago to settle a dispute between the citrus growers and the agricultural workers union.
Almogi said government intervention in the cannery dispute was urgent because a strike in that sector could set off a chain reaction of industrial strikes. Mrs. Meir reportedly took Ben-Aharon to task for his criticism of the government but urged him to withdraw his resignation which she called an easy choice but not a responsible one.