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A sudden dispute between the Histadrut labor federation and the Government Companies Authority may hold up the split-up of Oil Refineries and its privatization. At a meeting today at the company's headquarters in Ramat Gan, the union representatives complained that the GCA and the Finance Ministry had completely ignored a paper the union had given them about job security for the Oil Refineries workers.

The apparent breakdown in talks happened after the parties had agreed in principle on the framework for restructuring privatization: each Oil Refineries worker was to receive about NIS 300,000.

David Galanos, the chairman of the Energy sector at the Histadrut, ordered a wildcat strike at Oil Refineries' Ashdod refinery. The workers will block fuel supplies to protest the crisis in the talks. "If the crisis is not resolved through negotiations, I will direct the Haifa refinery workers to join the strike," Galanos declared.

The disruptions could lead to shortages at gas stations.

Sources at the Finance Ministry and GCA expressed astonishment at the strike declared at Ashdod, calling it inappropriate muscle-flexing. "The talks are progressing properly and the Histadrut's real motive behind this irresponsible act is unclear," one said.

The compensation mentioned above is based on the understanding that the Oil Refineries workers would be able to buy 10% of the company's shares at a 30% discount, or alternatively 3% of the total cash proceeds of the company's sale.

The plan for privatizing Oil Refineries calls for incorporating the two refineries as competing government companies, then selling the Ashdod one and floating the Haifa refinery  on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.