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El Al Strike-bound Again: Cabinet Urges Return to Work

The Cabinet issued today a moderately-worded statement on the strike-grounded El Al airline in an apparent effort to keep the door open for a quiet solution of the airline’s latest labor crisis, but the strike continued.

Contrary to expectations, there was no mention in the Cabinet statement about a possible shutting down of the airline. The issue reportedly was raised during the Cabinet session but some Ministers expressed strong opposition to the idea of dissolving El Al.

The Cabinet asked the El Al workers to return to work immediately, adding that the controversy over the dismissal of 18 flight engineers should be settled by negotiation under the union contract, or submitted to arbitration.

The El Al management meanwhile announced it would pay no salaries to the strikers and would not enter negotiations until the strikers returned to work. But both management and the worker committees indicated some satisfaction with the Cabinet position.

The management regarded the Cabinet resolution and public support for the call to return to work by Transportation Minister Haim Corfu, as backing management’s firm stand against the strike. The workers noted the moderate tone of the Cabinet resolution and the government’s apparent decision to stay out of any talks about the airline’s dissolution.

The latest labor dispute broke out Thursday when employees announced a general strike. Earlier that morning, the workers agreed to end a “rule book” slowdown, underway for several days, to protest management’s alleged failure to put the financially-troubled finances in order.

A few hours later, the union called a meeting of all worker committees after learning management intended to dismiss the 18 engineers because new planes entering service made them redundant. The general strike was called without Histadrut approval.

In the meantime, strikes, threats to strike and work sanctions affected other parts of Israel’s economy. A strike continued today at the Communications Ministry and the courts. Teachers threatened to strike Wednesday in 45 schools. Threats to strike also were made today by workers at the Labor Ministry, and by administrative workers in Israel’s hospitals.

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