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Israel Hit by Wildcat Strikes

Organized labor in Israel, furious over the government’s emergency economic program which it claims will place the heaviest burden of sacrifice on working men and women, partially paralyzed the country with a series of wildcat strikes today and seems intent on staging a nationwide general strike as early as this Sunday.

Local trade unionists and their rank-and-file constituents are proving even more militant than Histadrut. While leaders of the trade union federation continued to negotiate with government officials to mitigate the effects of the new economic measures on workers, so far without results, they were being urged by local union heads to take tough measures now.

One of the immediate issues is the government’s plan to dismiss 10,000 civil service workers and cut the wages of most of the others. The government employes’ union announced today that it has ordered a general strike of all civil servants, starting tomorrow. The announcement was made late in the day to allow no time for the courts or government to prepare back-to-work orders.

TV, RADIO BROADCASTS SHUT DOWN

Histadrut itself ordered employes of the State-run television and radio to walk off the job at 9 p.m. local time this evening, except for the 30-minute news program at that hour.

Premier Shimon Peres was scheduled to appear on a special TV interview at 9:30 p.m. The TV newscasters, however, shut down all broadcasts at 8 p.m., including news bulletins. Their apparent reason was to make clear they were not acting simply to prevent Peres from stating the government’s case on economic issues.

Employes of the State-owned Bezek Telephone Corp. and seamen of the merchant fleet, also government-owned, returned to their jobs today after a one-day strike yesterday. But workers of the Israel Electric Corp. who also walked out yesterday, continued their strike today, creating near havoc in many parts of the country.

POWER BLACKOUTS PARALYZE CITIES

Power output was reduced by 20 percent. It was cut off entirely on an area-by-area rotation basis throughout the day. Although each blackout was supposed to last only 20-30 minutes, wide areas were without electricity for more than three hours at a time.

As a result, banks and businesses using computers and other electronic equipment were forced to close. Traffic jams built up in the cities and on highways where traffic lights failed to function. Food in supermarkets and in thousands of household refrigerators were threatened with spoilage. Many people found themselves stranded in stalled elevators.

Histadrut Secretary General Yisrael Kessar met several times during the day with Peres and Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai. It was their third successive day of meetings, but little progress toward a compromise was reported. The government earlier agreed to postpone invoking the special emergency measures by which it plans to implement the economic program.

One of the chief stumbling blocks between Histadrut and the government is partly the result of different methods of calculating the erosion of real wages under the new economic program. The Treasury claims an average decline of 15 percent. Kessar insists that a 50 percent erosion is more likely.

The government bases its figures on net wages and income since last year and says workers will benefit from tax rebates to be granted in September. Histadrut compares gross incomes at the end of the current three month period with gross incomes in 1978-1980. Both sides use the equivalent Dollar value as their yardstick. In terms of Shekels, gross incomes have increased many hundredfold because of inflation.

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