Histadrut Threatens General Strike in Haifa over Shipyards Situation

Histadrut announced last night that it will call a general strike of several hours’ duration in Haifa next week to be followed by a countrywide general strike, if the financially ailing Haifa Shipyards is shut down by the government-appointed receiver.

The government-owned shipbuilding and repair facility on Haifa Bay has ordered its 650 employes on a payless furlough of indefinite duration. The workers responded by barricading themselves inside the gates.

They are maintaining a 24-hour sit-in in shifts to prevent a lock-out by management. Some carried coffins through Haifa streets today, symbolizing the “death” of the shipyards. Coffins were towed around Haifa port on barges to make the same point to waterfront workers.

The receiver, Amiram Blum, announced today that he has gotten permission to re-employ about 60 workers for repair work on ships. The Haifa Labor Council says the Shipyards could undertake other types of repair work not associated with the maritime industry to keep its work force busy.

The yards have been losing $600,000 a month because of the lack of orders for new ships, partly a consequence of the worldwide shipping slump. The Israel Navy has cut back orders for budgetary reasons. The Navy, in any event, has its own building and repair facilities. Blum, who claims credit for rescuing El Al, the national airline, when it was on the verge of liquidation several years ago, says the Shipyards can be salvaged by drastic cost-cutting and a much smaller payroll, But the Haifa area is highly sensitive to unemployment. More than a thousand workers were rendered jobless when the Ata textile mills were closed permanently last year.

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