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Sick Fund Doctors Break Ranks, Vote to End 4-month-old Strike

Doctors employed by Kupat Holim, the Histadrut sick fund, broke ranks with government-employed physicians today when their Council voted 63-61 to end their four month-old strike.

Kupat Holim clinics, which have been open only two days a week since the strike began to treat emergencies and chronically ill elderly patients will return to a daily basis. But the vote must be ratified by the Central Committee of the Israel Medical Association. Kupat Holim doctors represent only a third of the 8,500 members and their back-to-work decision may be aborted.

The Medical Association is opposed to ending the strike as long as the Treasury insists that salary increases for doctors cannot exceed the 22 percent national wages ceiling agreement reached between the government and Histadrut.

Health Minister Eliezer Shostak said today that the dispute with the Finance Ministry derived from the fact that the wage accord with Histadrut does not apply to doctors who have their own independent union. The 22 percent ceiling is not the only matter at issue.

The doctors’ work contract has not been amended since 1961. Physicians are thus the only sector of the work force bound by a 20 year-old agreement. They insist that they should not be required to work 100 hours a week to earn a reasonable income whereas most other salaried employes work a 35-40 hour week.

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