General Strike is Postponed; Health Care Panel is Stymied

A general strike by some 400,000 public sector employees, called for Sunday, has been postponed until July 6, Histadrut announced Tuesday.

The labor federation said the three-day breathing spell is to allow more time for wage negotiations with the government. But employees will stop work briefly on Sunday to hold “informational meetings” at their work places.

Histadrut has not decided whether to limit the mass walkout to 24 hours or declare an open-ended strike to last until the government approves worker demands. These include wage increases, expanded fringe benefits and improved working conditions.

Meanwhile, the nation’s health care crisis is continuing, with no end in sight. State-run and Histadrut hospitals in central Israel were put on a restricted Sabbath schedule Tuesday. Outpatient clinics were closed and only emergency surgery was performed.

Finance Minister Moshe Nissim has refused to consider wage hikes for doctors on the grounds that they would trigger similar demands from other public employees.

PANEL SPLIT ALONG PARTY LINES

The special ministerial committee set up at the beginning of the month to find a quick, short-term solution to the health care crisis has become deadlocked.

It is split along party lines. Premier Yitzhak Shamir backs his Likud colleague, Finance Minister Nissim, who will not countenance budgetary increases. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and fellow Laborite Shoshana Arbeli-Almoslino, the health minister, support the doctors.

The four ministers met with doctors’ representatives Monday. But it was a brief encounter.

“We were summoned to present our plans for reducing the lengthy queue for operations and health treatments in the public service hospitals, but we were dismissed after only seven minutes,” a spokesman for the physicians said. “This is no way to find a solution to the health crisis.”

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