JERUSALEM, July 22 (JTA) — An Israeli labor court ordered thousands of Bezek phone company employees back to work Tuesday. The week-long strike disrupted phone service in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas and delayed trading on the Tel Aviv stock exchange. Despite the court order, Bezek union members decided to return to work only on Wednesday. The Bezek workers struck last week after the announcement that the state-corporations authority had sold a 12.5 percent stake in the phone company to the Merrill Lynch investment bank as part of the firm’s privatization. Workers said they were not consulted on the sale in violation of understandings with the government. However, Communications Minister Limor Livnat accused Bezek workers of having entirely different motivations for their strike. “The Bezek workers do not want to deal with competition,” she said. “They do not want to give up being a monopoly, so they decide to strike the entire system.” Last week’s stock sale closely followed the beginning of operations for two concerns that are now providing overseas phone service in addition to a Bezek subsidiary, Bezek International. Bezek workers, however, said their concern was that wage and pension agreements would not be implemented with the privatization, and that they would get the short end of the company’s restructuring.
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