Date: Tue, 31 Dec 96 11:18:47 CST
From: Labor Committee on the Middle East <>
Subject: Israeli Workers Fight Privatization/Budget Cuts

Date: Mon, 30 Dec 1996 12:10:24 -0800 (PST)
Date: Sun, 29 Dec 96 09:03:24 CST

Government rips Histadrut, workers for strikes

Itim, in Jerusalem Post,
29 December, 1996

Israel Radio has just reported the arrest of the head of the Histradut's (General Federation of Labour) Trade Union Department, who went underground over the weekend while under the threat of arrest for not calling off a series of crippling strikes last week. This unprecedented act of repression against the Israeli labour movement was swiftly answered by strike action called by the Histadrut leadership.

The following article which appeared in today's Jerusalem Post is for your information. It is already out of date, as you can see.

JERUSALEM (December 29) -- The government blasted the Histadrut leadership and workers over the weekend for the strikes against the budget cuts and their violation of labor court restraining orders.

At Friday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the wave of strikes declared by the Histadrut as "political" which have "no justification."

Ministers rebuffed the Histadrut's claim that the strike was planned to protest budget cuts, saying clauses in the 1997 budget that would have hurt the poor had been removed.

Finance Minister Dan Meridor condemned the Histadrut for ignoring labor court restraining orders against the strikes. "It is inconceivable that workers will violate the law and get backing for this from the Histadrut leadership," Meridor said, adding that the Histadrut's "delegitimization of the labor court is an attack on the essence of democracy."

The Tel Aviv Labor Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Histadrut trade union section head Shlomo Shani, after he did not appear in court for a hearing on his violation of restraining orders. The Ports and Railways Authority petitioned the court against Shani, who heads the Histadrut action committee.

Shani went underground over the weekend, and last night told Israel Radio he would appear before the court today after the demonstration outside Haifa Chemicals.

Histadrut Chairman Amir Peretz called on Meridor to enter into serious negotiations and not to engage in threats, which would "only bring about an escalation and deterioration of the state of the economy."

Tomorrow, Tel Aviv Labor Court will hear a petition filed by Bezeq against the Histadrut and the workers for ignoring the court orders.

On Friday, workers staged a second day of strike to protest planned budgets cuts. The strike closed Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat ports, and disrupted telephone services.

Leaders of the labor federation said strikes were planned in other sectors tomorrow, including government ministries, local authorities, the health system, the airports, and banks, and threatened a general strike on Tuesday when the Knesset is due to vote on the 1997 budget.

The government's 1997 budget proposal includes NIS 7 billion in spending cuts and new taxes and other revenue measures that Netanyahu has said are necessary to rein in the deficit. Union leaders say the measures will erode workers' salaries.

For udpates on the increasing tension between the Israeli trade unions and the government, check out tomorrow's edition of the independent online newsletter, BibiWATCH, which will deal with these issues:

Eric Lee
Kibbutz Ein Dor, Israel

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