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24-hour El Al Strike Begun

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A 24-hour strike by 3000 ground employes of El Al and several hundred employes of 15 foreign airlines serving Israel began at midnight last night to protest the government’s travel tax. Only Swissair, staffed entirely by Swiss nationals, refused to join the strike and maintained its normal flight schedules today. Local employes servicing the planes of Air France, Lufthansa and TWA which said they would maintain their schedules, refused to service outgoing planes and incoming passengers.

The airline employes who formed a new Aviation Workers Union, defied no-strike orders issued by a Tel Aviv District Labor Court last night and this morning. Earlier they had rejected appeals by Transport Minister Gad Yaacobi and El Al managing director Mordechai Ben Ari to call off the strike on grounds that it would cut Israel off from vital commercial air communications with the rest of the world.

The immediate cause of the strike is the travel tax the government has decided to levy on free tickets granted airline employes. But the strikers say they are opposed to the idea of travel taxes in principle which, they say, no other Western nation has.

The local offices of some foreign airlines which have opposed the travel tax on grounds that it reduces travel, were giving tacit backing to the strikers. The 50,000-member Israeli Students Association announced support for the abolition of the travel tax and said it would demonstrate on behalf of the striking airline employes.

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