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El Al’s Future Remains Cloudy

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The end of the El Al strike, followed by the resignations of chairman Avraham Shavit and his six-man board yesterday, appear to have added a new dimension to the airline’s troubles and clouded its future.

While the workers claimed today that their 12-day walkout — not sanctioned by Histadrut — achieved its purpose by forcing out the government-appointed management in which they no longer had confidence, others believe the departure of Shavit is a setback to the process of solving the air carrier’s serious financial difficulties.

Shavit, an industrialist who heads the Israel Manufacturers Association, is credited with having done much during his two years as El Al’s chairman to reduce its debts and set it on the road to financial solvency. Observers fear his departure may have halted and possibly reversed the recovery program he instituted.

‘THE END OF FEUDALISM’

But a spokesman for the El Al workers committees said Shavit’s resignation marked “the end of feudalism” in the company. Transport Minister Haim Corfu, on the other hand, was reported to be urging Premier Menachem Begin to appeal to Shavit to withdraw his resignation. Shavit has insisted so far that he would not. Arnold Sherman, an El Al spokesman and one of the board members who resigned, said the question was “who is running the airline — management or workers committees?”

Normal service has yet to be restored and some members of management expressed concern today that the strike and apparent anarchy within the company would frighten off many would-be passengers. The strike ended when workers agreed to proposals by Deputy Premier David Levy, the nature of which are still unclear.

Labor circles charged that Levy’s intervention in the dispute without consultations with management undermined the role of Histadrut as a bargaining agent and disrupted the normal system of labor-management relations. Some observers said that was Levy’s intention. As Likud’s senior representative in Histadrut, he has long sought to reduce the power of the Labor Party-dominated trade union federation, they said.

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