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800 Soviet Immigrants Arrive to Find Airport Staff on Strike

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About 800 new immigrants from the Soviet Union who landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday morning had their first encounter with an Israeli problem that would immediately and directly affect them.

Because of a strike, only a skeleton staff from the Absorption Ministry was on hand to process them, not enough to get the job done.

Most employees walked out after their shop committee called a strike to protest the ministry’s failure to hire additional staff to cope with the extra workload represented by the overwhelmingly successful Soviet aliyah.

Absorption Ministry employees say their work is 10 times heavier than a year ago, before the massive influx of Soviet Jews began, but no extra hands have been brought in.

Those on hand at the airport Sunday morning were unable to cope with the hundreds of immigrants who poured off seven charter flights.

Most of the new arrivals were sent directly to hotels in Tel Aviv. They were bused back to the airport in the afternoon after a labor court declared the strike illegal and ordered the employees back to work.

The Soviets seemed baffled. They had been taught that strikes were the way starving, underpaid workers were forced to fight their wicked bosses in the capitalist West.

But instead of militant workers they found well-dressed, polite clerks who apologized for the inconvenience and explained that the walkout was aimed at getting additional personnel to make the processing of immigrants more efficient.

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