New Year Begins with a Bang Major Strikes Hit Israel

Israelis woke up to the New Year this morning to find their seaports paralyzed by a walk-out of maritime officers, factories shut down by work stoppages protesting the-lifting of price controls and the threat of major strikes tomorrow by engineers and government hospital employes that dould disrupt the nation’s communications; cut off water and electric supplies and curtail health services at 22 government hospitals.

The grim labor picture occupied the attention of the Cabinet which has appealed to the engineers and hospital workers to call of their strike threats. Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir was scheduled to hold another meeting tonight with the representatives of 30,000 engineers and technicians who are demanding a higher wage scale. The hospital administrative, kitchen and house-keeping employes are protesting delays in applying the recommendations of a special committee which have already been applied to nongovernment hospitals.

The maritime walk-out stemmed from Histadrut’s refusal to recognize the Maritime Officers Association, a union established by licensed officers who had previously belonged to the general maritime union. The Association members include harbor pilots, marine inspectors and other shore-based personnel in addition to sea-going ships’ officers. Their walk-out prevented ships from entering and leaving ports and halted the loading and discharge of cargoes. The officers rejected a Histadrut appeal to cancel the walk-out but agreed not to declare an official strike pending further negotiations.

WILL SET STANDARDS FOR WAGE DEMANDS

The dispute with the engineers and technicians is by far the most serious facing Israel, not only because of the disastrous effects of a power and communications black-out-but because its outcome will set the standard for wage demands in other sectors, notably academicians, journalists and non-government technicians. A wage agreement with the engineers was to have gone into effect last March 1. The government accepted their demands for a 34 percent wage hike.

But the engineers insisted on adding three or four more grades to the top of the employment scale and asked a 74 percent increase over the prevailing top grade wages. This was rejected by the government and Histadrut on grounds that the disparity between engineers’ and other wages would destroy the wage system.

PROTEST END OF PRICE CONTROLS

The termination at midnight last night of general price controls that had been in effect since Aug. 1971, set off a wave of protests which found expression in two-hour work stoppages at factories all over the country. The government fixed prices on 125 basic commodities and services in order to avert a sudden spurt of price increases. But general price increases of over 10 percent were anticipated and many shops have already posted higher prices.

Dr. Moshe Mandelbaum, deputy director of the Finance Ministry, said last night that he doubted the decontrol order would be followed by a sharp upward trend in prices. Gen Haim Barlev, Minister of Commerce and Industry, signed an administrative order fixing ceilings on the prices of bread, eggs, meat, cooking oils, soups, frozen poultry, instant coffee, beer, tea, wines and many other edibles. Price ceilings were also fixed for such items as tin used in canning, structural steel and bath tubs.

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