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Merchant Marine Strike in Second Week

February 1, 1978
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More than 30 Israel-flag ships, a substantial portion of the merchant marine, remain idle at home and abroad as efforts to end the two-week-old strike of officers and licensed seamen collapsed yesterday. A Haifa labor court refused to issue a back-to-work order to the officers and reversed an earlier order addressed to the seamen. The effect was to render the strike legal.

The court acted on grounds that the shipping companies refused to accept its arbitration proposal. It is now up to Histadrut to find a solution to the strike which it has refused to recognize until now. Israeli ship-owners, meanwhile, are chartering foreign vessels to pick up stranded cargo in an effort to reduce their losses. Some of the strike-bound Israeli ships have been offered for sale abroad.

A spokesman for the seamen’s union said yesterday that they were ready to begin negotiations immediately on retroactive pay increases. The ship-owners insist on a comprehensive agreement covering the current year as well. One shipping official observed, “With 12 strikes a year no country can run a merchant marine.”

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