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El Al Suspends All Operations Until It Can Resolve Labor Dispute

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El Al, Israel’s national airline, announced today that it is suspending all operations until conditions permit it to function smoothly, unhampered by labor actions that have disrupted its service. Mordechai Hod, director general of El Al who made the announcement at noon, said all passengers booked on El Al flights would be transferred to other carriers.

The action by management followed a wild-cat work stoppage by maintenance crews, the latest in the long series of labor disputes that has plagued Israel’s international air carrier. The management had served notice some time ago that it would shut down operations in these circumstances. Its decision today was supported by the Ministry of Transport and the Finance Ministry.

The maintenance workers informed management yesterday that they planned to hold union meetings during morning work hours, thereby delaying the servicing of aircraft and disrupting flight schedules. Management reportedly agreed to the meetings but asked that they be held in the afternoon when most flights would be air-borne. The workers refused with the result that morning departures were grounded. Passengers at the Ben Gurion Airport complained bitterly when informed of the delays while efforts were made to find seats for them on foreign carriers.

El Al’s troubles are only part of the labor strife that has hit Israel in recent weeks. Broadcast journalists employed by Kol Israel radio and television are still on strike after the Broadcasting Authority refused to sign the interim agreement with the national journalists union that ended the two-day newspaper strike yesterday. The Authority, a quasi-national body, claimed that its wage policy was under the jurisdiction of the Finance Ministry and therefore not affected by agreements signed by private publishers and their employes.

Meanwhile, the teachers union said it would strike tomorrow in support of demands for a 40 percent wage increase. Strikes are also threatened by civil service workers, employes of the National Insurance Institute and postal officials who have not received salary increases granted others. The only bright spot on the labor scene today was the prospect that the II week-old strike by merchant marine officers and seamen may end soon. Negotiations in that dispute are being conducted under Histadrut auspices.

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