Histadrut Moves to Protect Future of El Al and Its Workers

The Histadrut today decided to set up a special committee to plan future moves to protect what they term the future of both the El Al national airline and its employes, in the face of the government decision to halt Sabbath and Jewish holiday flights.

Both the labor federation’s central committee and the El Al workers were in an angry mood today, following yesterday’s action by the airline management in summoning a strong police detachment to oust workers from the management building at Ben Gurion Airport where they had kept Transport Minister Haim Corfu locked up in the office of El Al Board chairman Nahman Perl while they were meeting, pounding on the door to halt their conversation.

The workers have accused the management of not being firm enough in opposing the government decision, which they claim will damage the airline financially, merely to preserve the Begin coalition.

The workers’ action followed the decision by the Knesset Finance Committee to approve the Cabinet’s action to ban El Al Sabbath flights beginning September 1. Premier Menachem Begin agreed to the shutdown under intense pressure from Agudat Israel, a member of his coalition. El Al representatives warned that the shutdown would cause the struggling airline to lose an estimated $40 million annually, a loss that could mean the end of El Al.

EL AL ON REGULAR SCHEDULE

The police, who brought up a large detachment of the tough border police and water cannons to disperse the angry El Al workers at the airport, arrested eight members of the airline’s workers committee after the incident in the management office but released them later, to avoid a threatened general walkout of all airline workers.

The airline was working normally today. Management reported the “normal number for this time of the year” of cancellations of bookings. It had been feared that talk of industrial unrest following the Cabinet decision, strengthened by an 11-10 vote in favor of Sabbath shutdown by the Knesset Finance Committee yesterday, would scare passengers off reserving future flights with El Al.

Among the steps reportedly considered by Histadrut, at the urging of the El Al workers committee and the committee of representatives of the major industrial enterprises, are the enforced closing of the airport on Saturdays, and a possible general strike, especially of enterprises which normally have to work on Saturdays, such as the electric corporation and the telephone service.

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