JERUSALEM (Jul. 14)
Histadrut has given the government until Tuesday to agree to a compromise on its emergency economic program that would ease the burden of sacrifice imposed on wage-earners.
The trade union federation postponed its call for a general strike that was supposed to begin today so that negotiations could continue in a calm atmosphere. Histadrut Secretary General Yisrael Kessar met again with Premier Shimon Peres and Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai. Their marathon sessions, which began last week, are on two major issues, wage erosion and mass dismissals of public employes. Histadrut also objects to the implementation of these measures by decree.
INCHING TOWARD AGREEMENT
Although Kessar said late today that no progress was made, media sources said both sides were inching toward agreement on the key issues. Political pundits said both were anxious to reach an accord, if possible before tomorrow afternoon. At that time, the Central Bureau of Statistics will release the inflation figures for June. They are expected to be high and could trigger a new round of wildcat strikes by the more militant unions which would make an agreement even harder to achieve.
Government sources said today that Histadrut has agreed in principle that about three percent of the public sector workforce will have to be dismissed in the interest of averting economic collapse. But they are negotiating vigorously over how this will be implemented.
The Cabinet decided at its meeting today to include all government-owned companies in the blanket three percent cut. Modai had intended to exempt the companies on grounds they were governed by the profit motive and should be left to take whatever economic measures were necessary to ensure their profitability.
But Energy Minister Moshe Shahal insisted that government enterprises be included in the austerity plan and his view carried.
BUS DRIVERS WALK OFF THE JOB
While negotiations continued, the labor scene simmered. Egged bus drivers walked off the job today throwing public transportation into chaos. Egged, a cooperative with a monopoly of inter-urban bus service, is seeking to reduce expenses. The drivers and other employes are fighting the plan on grounds it would drastically reduce their incomes.
Employes of the Israel Electric Corp. resumed normal operations today after a week of partial power cuts which blacked out large areas of the country for as long as three hours at a time. They and other public service employes who engaged in wildcat strikes or job actions last week, got a tongue-lashing today from President Chaim Herzog.
The strikes “hit the little man … the medical patient on the operating table, the pensioneer, ” Herzog said. He said it was “incomprehensible” that a nation which was capable of monumental sacrifices in-self-defense should show such irresponsibility in defense of the economy.
Herzog has spoken out several times in recent days to urge public support of the government’s economic program. He apparently feels no constitutional constraint in lining up his prestigious but non-political office behind the government inasmuch as the economic program was adopted by a unity coalition which represents a preponderant majority of the Knesset.
PERES JUSTIFIES PLANS
Peres, addressing local authorities Friday, admitted that the government was being forced to take measures to save the economy that no trade union would approve. He justified plans to impose the economic program by decree because the measures were too urgently needed to allow for time-consuming union negotiations and debate in the Knesset.
Peres said the government has tried wage-price package deals but with only limited success because after a point no agreement could be sustained between the principal parties, labor and management.