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Israeli Public Employees Strike Sunday over Status of Bargaining

More than 450,000 government and municipal employees were on a day-long strike Sunday affecting most of the public sector. Finance Minister Moshe Nissim shrugged off the widespread work stoppage as a familiar tactic employed by Histadrut whenever new wage contracts were about to be negotiated.

Histadrut leaders said negotiations began three months ago with no progress made. The trade union federation is seeking higher pay, especially for public employees at the lowest end of the wage scale. Histadrut said the government refused to consider demands for an across-the board agreement or to negotiate separately with individual unions.

Although the strike affected all government offices and agencies and local authorities, including the postal services and telephone exchanges, Nissim reported only briefly to the Cabinet at its Sunday meeting on the status of negotiations.

The public was not entirely inconvenienced. Bus and taxi services were normal. Electricity and water supplies were not affected by the strike nor were health care institutions for the elderly, the handicapped and children. General hospitals and emergency rooms were run by skeleton staffs.

Railroad service was halted except for shipments of potash from the Dead Sea to the Ashdod port. Ben Gurion Airport was shut down from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Television was blacked out, but the strikers allowed a camera crew to film the arrival of prominent Soviet refusenik Yuri Edelshtein and his family on a 6:15 p.m. flight from Vienna. This was at the request of Soviet Jewry groups.

University students were allowed to take final exams scheduled for Sunday, but the schools themselves were closed. Fire-brigades and other emergency services were operated on a restricted Sabbath schedule.

Israel Radio was off the air except for the Arabic language service and foreign language news broadcasts beamed abroad.

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