TEL AVIV (Nov. 29)
Histadrut, Israel’s massive trade union federation, has hung a double sword of Damocles over the country.
Citing ongoing job disputes and the government’s failure to address salary increase demands, on Sunday the powerful trade federation gave two week’s warning for a general strike unless the government engages in long-promised negotiations.
At the same time, however, the trade federation let it be known that it was in fact about to impose sanctions and launch sporadic strikes this week.
This Thursday, 100,000 workers at 20 of the largest government-owned companies are expected to walk off their jobs.
These workers declared a work dispute 10 days ago and have not had their demands addressed.
The strikes and sanctions would no doubt cripple the country.
Companies that would be affected include El Al, the Bezek Telephone Corp., Israel Aircraft Industries, Israel Chemicals, Oil Refineries, Dead Sea Works, Rafael — the government-owned weapons-production corporation — and the railway, airport and port authorities.
Senior Histadrut officials said the general strike would probably be unnecessary, as the government would have to bow to the pressure of the earlier major work stoppages.
Histadrut Secretary-General Haim Haberfeld said Sunday that there had been no contacts between Treasury officials and the Histadrut for two weeks.
He said the government and the trade union federation had reached impasses over the most critical economic issues.
These include the national health-insurance law, pension funds, wage erosion, the government’s privatization policy and the “creeping introduction” of personal contracts into union shops.