Labor Erupts in Anger over New Plan

Israel’s labor scene, relatively quiet of late, erupted in anger today over the new economic order imposed by the Likud government. Wildcat strikes and work-stoppages occurred in various parts of the country. Yeruham Meshel, Secretary General of Histadrut, hinted at possible strikes and work slowdowns and called today for demonstrations against the new measures which have stirred fears of economic losses by Israeli workers and wage-earners. Histadrut set up emergency headquarters at its central office here where workers committees were to report for instructions.

But some worker groups did not wait for an invitation to react. Tel Aviv postal workers called a 24-hour strike and staged a march to Histadrut headquarters–without a police permit–to demonstrate against the Ehrlich plan.

Trade union spokesmen, addressing them through loudspeakers, denounced the plan as a bonanza for the rich with nothing for the wage-earner. They noted that the plan contained no provisions for holders of now legal black market foreign currency accounts to pay back taxes on their holdings. This, they said, was naked discrimination against workers who paid their taxes in full and on time.

There was a brief strike at the Dead Sea chemical plant today and one or two-hour work stoppages were called at a number of factories. The powerful Haifa port workers union stopped work for one hour and then decided at a stormy meeting to demand action by Histadrut in 24 hours. The Haifa Labor Council set up a regional headquarters to coordinate workers’ activities.

Histadrut announced that it would call for worker demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba and Jerusalem. The one in the capital is expected to be the largest, attended by workers from all over the country. Only the Likud faction in Histadrut welcomed the government’s plan. But even it has demanded immediate compensation for low wage-earners.

The Histadrut Central Committee met last night and heard Meshel reply to Ehrlich’s charge that Histadrut-owned industries were sick enterprises. “I did not know Ehrlich was a physician. To the best of my knowledge, he is an optician. Let him stick to his field and not diagnose others,” Meshel said.

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