JERUSALEM (Dec. 7)
The Foreign Ministry was virtually deserted today as more than 1,000 diplomatic and administrative staff members observed a 24-hour strike in a dispute over wages and working conditions. A two-day general strike by some 400,000 civil servants in all government departments will begin tomorrow following the collapse of wage negotiations between the Treasury and Histadrut today.
Civilian employes of the Defense Ministry observed a one-day strike yesterday, the first to hit Israel’s defense establishment since the State was founded.
Only Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Director General David Kimche were at their offices in the Foreign Ministry today. Everyone else stayed home, according to staff committee activists who toured the premises this morning and reported with grim satisfaction that “the place is desolate.”
(Many employes of the Israel Embassy in Washington and of Consulates and various Israeli missions in the U.S. also stayed away from their jobs today in response to the strike call by the Foreign Ministry’s staff committee.)
DEMANDS BY THE STRIKERS
The Ministry employes are demanding that their pay and working conditions be equalized with those at the Defense Ministry. They also demand extra renumeration for specialists who work odd hours.
The employes have threatened additional action such as a daily shutdown at 3 p.m. and a general refusal to handle classified material if their demands are refused. Those sanctions, if carried out, would affect Israeli diplomatic establishments abroad.
Finance Minister Yorom Aridor had a lengthy meeting yesterday with Histadrut Secretary General Yehoshua Meshel in a last minute effort to avert a general strike by civil servants. The Treasury wants to put a ceiling on wage increases by law. Histadrut insists that wage agreements must remain a subject of bargaining between workers and employers.
The trade union federation also opposes a Treasury plan to spread out the payment of cost-of-living increase increments. It would pay a monthly increase of five percent instead of the lump sum payments now made twice a year.
According to the Treasury, its proposals are aimed at fighting inflation. Histadrut retorted that this cannot be done on the backs of the workers. It is insisting on a new general wage hike to compensate employes for the erosion of their real wages in 1981.
The impasse makes a general strike tomorrow virtually certain and labor strife is rampant in other sectors as well. University teachers are on a week-long strike. Court functions were disrupted yesterday when State-employed lawyers resorted to job actions, Postal workers, however, postponed a scheduled strike yesterday.