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100,000 Workers Strike to Protest the Government’s Economic Policies

Israelis could drive to Egypt for the first time today but they could not leave Israel by air or sea. Ben Gurion Airport and Israel’s three seaports, Haifa, Eilat and Ashdod, were closed as some 100,000 public utility workers were out in a strike to protest the government’s economic policies.

The strike, called by 12 major workers committees, included employee who service planes at Ben Gurion Airport; the seamen’s union and dockworkers; postal and Israel Electric Co. workers; employes in X-ray departments and at the Dead Sea Works; and employes of Israel Aircraft Industries, the nation’s largest employer.

As the strike continued, the Cabinet was meeting in a marathon session to debate the Finance Ministry’s proposed budget for the 1980-81 fiscal year. The strikers were protesting the Treasury’s cut in food subsidies and published intention to slash child allowances and freeze wages during the coming year. The workers also have strongly attacked the government’s refusal to adjust income tax brackets more often so that the cost-of-living increases do not push people into higher tax brackets.

The Histadrut did not officially approve the strike but it has expressed its understanding of the cause. “This shows that our positions are actively endorsed by the country’s workers, “Histadrut deputy secretary general Yisrael Kessar said today. He was implicitly replying to charges by government officials that the Histadrut’s fight against Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz’s proposed budget cuts was not designed to protect workers but a political move aimed at toppling the Likud government.

Meanwhile, Ben Gurion Airport reopened tonight to accommodate arriving El AI planes from Europe and elsewhere. The company had begun making arrangements to land the planes at military fields. El AI chairman Abraham Shavit explained it was too dangerous, from a security standpoint, to allow the planes to remain in European airports overnight – especially today – “Normalization Day.”

Hurwitz called today’s strike politically motivated. He declared it will not deter the Treasury from its policy of checking inflation, which ultimately will be beneficial to the nation’s workers.

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