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Major Strikes Pending in Israel

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Israel faces a week of labor strife as strikes are threatened by salaried engineers, El Al air crew members and the employes of Bank Leumi Le Israel, the nation’s largest financial institution. The government, the Histadrut and other bodies are trying to avert the walkouts which could result in no construction work being done, no permits issued, no inspection by engineers, no fiscal transactions in the country’s largest bank, and the grounding of Israel’s national airline.

The labor disputes are a result partly of the new tax reforms and partly of the efforts to close the salary gaps between various employe groups, Gustav Badian, secretary of the Engineers Union, said some 15,000 salaried engineers will start a partial strike tomorrow because their demands to maintain the ratio of salary differences between them and other groups have been turned down. He said the strike would hit all spheres of work except essential security projects and plants.

Badian rejected a call by the Histadrut for restraint and a postponement of demands for another half-year until the start of negotiations for a new labor contract. He said the Histadrut had rejected a request that it appoint a committee to examine the engineers’ claims that they were lagging behind other salaried employes who had received various fringe benefits such as overtime payments, premiums and special allowances such as the “shame” allowance for income tax officials. (Some employes groups who claim their jobs incur social stigma receive a special allowance.)

The government has a special stake in the engineers’ claim since it fears that if it gives in to them, others such as technicians, laboratory workers and journalists will make similar demands.

EL AL’S CREW MEMBERS EXPLAIN STAND

El Al’s 900 air crew members have threatened to strike on Wednesday unless they receive certain guarantees on their salaries which are paid partially in Israeli and partially in foreign currencies. They want their present income to remain unchanged in case of any future devaluation of the Israeli Pound, their present labor agreement to be the basis of the new contract that will be negotiated next year and that their salary be legalized by law as promised them by the Ministers of Finance and Transportation.

Speaking for the air crew. Capt. Gideon Arbel said that claims that they get fantastic salaries are unfounded. He said the values of their salaries had dropped by 25 percent because of the change in monetary rates in various countries and inflation, An El Al spokesman said there was no reason for the strike since the tax-free salary of the air crew will be kept at the same level until April 1976 and their special problems will be taken into consideration in any new wage agreement.

The several thousand employes of Bank Leumi will start sanctions tomorrow because the bank has not agreed to their demands that the bank restore the special grants that have been eliminated by the new tax reforms. The sanction will start, with a workers’ meeting at noon when banks close and may continue beyond the scheduled afternoon reopening hour. The bank workers have a list of claims which the bank’s management, with the support of the Ministry of Finance, has rejected. As with the engineers, the government here, too, fears that meeting the demands will mean that similar grants be given employes at other banks.

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