Stormy Labor Situation in Israel

Israel’s stormy labor relations deteriorated further today when 13,000 salaried engineers failed to report for work. There was no end in sight of the strike by physicians employed at public and private hospitals and violent demonstrations erupted yesterday at the Assis canning plant where several employes had received dismissal notices.

The engineers announced that they would return to their places of employment tomorrow for a sit-in strike and would not perform their duties. They are demanding implementation of a recommendation by the Barkay Committee that engineers should be compensated for their extra years of study.

The latest dispute stems from a disagreement with employers who claim that the additional compensation is included in present salaries. A prolonged strike by engineers could disrupt construction projects, radio, television, telex and telephone communications.

Attempts to renew negotiations with the striking doctors broke down on Friday. Both sides said they were ready to resume talks but neither would yield an inch from its position. The doctors want stand-by pay and extra shifts to reduce the work load. Government negotiators say that to comply with their demands would touch off a new wave of wage demands from other sections of labor.

LABOR VIOLENCE ERUPTS

Last week, Israel experienced serious labor violence for the first time in years. It was touched off by the government’s decision to reduce subsidies for basic food commodities, fuel and public transportation resulting in an average 20 percent increase in prices. The decision was bitterly opposed by Histadrut which called for demonstrations by local labor councils.

These were intended to be peaceful but in several instances they got out of hand. At noon Wednesday, workers at Israel Aircraft Industries smashed windows and furniture. Police were called but did not intervene. The workers’ committee chairman, Shmuel Kishles, said the workers’ anger over the sudden hike in prices could not be controlled. “l foresee a very difficult time in many factories and plants,” he told reporters.

Several hours after the outbreak at IAI, a group of Black Panthers staged a demonstration at the Tel Aviv bus terminal. Several hundred pickets with signs denouncing the price increases blocked the ramps in and out of the terminal and attempted to board buses to harass passengers. Border police dispersed the demonstrators and arrested their leader, Shalom Cohen, and several others. They were released later.

Moked called for demonstrations at Ashdod but the usually volatile port workers there refused to participate in any action sponsored by the leftist faction. At the same time however, the Dead Sea potash plant was closed down by its workers who are demanding higher wages.

In other areas, workers have been organizing protest moves. Representatives of the large labor committees in the Tel Aviv area met to discuss a possible one-day or one-hour general strike. MK David Levi, the Likud leader in Histadrut, called the government’s subsidy decision a direct slap at the trade union federation and at every Israeli worker. Mapam has also expressed strong feelings over the price increases and its leaders will convene to discuss possible action.

NEXT STORY