JERUSALEM (Jul. 11)
The labor unrest seemed to ease somewhat today as the government and Histadrut drew closer to a compromise agreement on the government’s controversial emergency economic program.
The civil service workers union cancelled, at the 11th hour, a general strike by some 80,000 government employes that was to have begun today. The threat was removed after Premier Shimon Peres, Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai and Histadrut Secretary General Yisrael Kessar reached an understanding that dismissal notices to 10,000 government workers would be delayed.
The notices were to go out at midnight tonight. The delay did not mean that the jobs have been saved or that massive strike action has been averted. Histadrut’s strike coordinating committee gave the go-ahead to the various local unions today to proceed with plans for a nationwide general strike beginning Sunday morning if the current talks with the government fail to reach a compomise.
The outstanding issues are the erosion of wages and mass dismissals. Kessar said, after a meeting of the Histadrut Central Committee in Tel Aviv, that labor was as anxious as the government to rehabilitate the economy. It wants the economic program to succeed and the workers are prepared to carry additional burdens as long as they are fair and equitable and are determined through negotiations rather than imposed by decree.
The core of the conflict between Histadrut and the government has been the latter’s plan to implement its economic program by invoking emergency regulations that are a holdover from the British Mandate regime.
READY TO CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES
Finance Minister Modai, who drafted the emergency program, told the Ministerial Economic Committee today that he was ready to consider reduced wages as a substitute for large scale dismissals as long as there was no deviation from the basic goals of his program. He said he would ask the Cabinet to empower him to postpone the dismissals.
His position indicated that the Treasury realized that the prospects of implementing its economic measures were slim without the agreement of Histadrut. The latter has not proposed an alternative economic program, however, and apparently is not inclined to do so.
But Deputy Premier and Housing Minister David Levy, the most outspoken critic of Modai’s plan, suggested today that the Cabinet may have to reconsider it to avoid a situation where it would remain a paper plan, unenforceable. Levy was one of seven Likud ministers who voted against the program last week and the only one who continued to oppose it publicly after it was adopted.
Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir, the Likud leader, supported Modai in the Cabinet though he said the plan was far from perfect. He continued to support it today, saying there was no alternative. He urged the nation to back the government’s measures.
HERZOG REJECTS ‘DESTRUCTIVE ANARCHY’
President Chaim Herzog, who has no political role but can bring to bear the prestige of his office, also urged the populace today to unite to save the economy from collapse even though it requires personal sacrifices. He said he was confident a majority of the people objected to the rash of wildcat strikes which disrupted public services this week. While it is just and legitimate to protest and demonstrate, Herzog said, he rejected acts that pushed the economy toward “destructive anarchy.”
The labor unrest of the past few days seemed to be simmering down. Of the several unions that walked out Tuesday, only the Israel Electric Corp. workers continued their job actions today. For the second successive day, power output was reduced by 20 percent and rotating power blackouts hit various parts of the country. These were supposed to last no longer than 30 minutes at a time. But most areas reported blackouts of three hours’ duration.
The massive traffic jams experienced yesterday because of non-functioning traffic lights worsened today. Many factories and shops were idle for the lack of electric power, causing lost production and lost customers. The electric company workers said they would not restore normal power until the government rescinds the emergency measures invoked to implement its economic program.