Labor representatives are escalating the struggle to gain regular compensation for workers exposed to hazardous working conditions in the nuclear sector.

The labor committee of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission yesterday appealed a lower court ruling that quashed a motion for compensation. The appeal was filed jointly with the Histadrut labor federation, at the National Labor Tribunal.

Earlier the Be'er Sheva Regional Labor Court had rejected the request to order the IAEC management to enforce labor and safety laws.

The union claims that IAEC workers' safety is not assured as the law requires, and that they are exposed to dangerous materials, chemicals, and cancer-causing radiation.

The lower regional court had accepted IAEC's request to quash the lawsuit. The judge explained that the claim as to hazards is theoretical, because no one on the job has contracted cancer.

The appeal countered: "The fact that employees are healthy (save for one who is suffering from cancer) should not pose an obstacle. It's unacceptable that a worker should have to suffer harm to one's body for the gates of the labor court to open up before him."

The union's lawyer filing the appeal retorted that the regional court ignored workers' testimony that the IAEC is violating labor laws and that safety regulations are not being obeyed.

"If workers are denied the possibility of enforcing safety laws in their factory, leaving safety protection in the hands of the employer, the latter will make decisions based on economic considerations," the union claims.

The union said the suit is not a regular damage suit dealing with preventing harm to workers, but rather one meant to oblige the IAEC to comply with safety laws as well as to allow employees to demand and receive financial compensation for damages already suffered.