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Workers began striking yesterday at Elisra, a maker of sophisticated electronic systems often used by the military. The 750 employees say they are protesting withheld wages and management's attempt to liquidate organized labor at the factory. Defense electronics company Elta recently took control of Elisra from Elbit Systems.

The local chair of the Histadrut labor federation, Avi Galili, said he approved the strike two weeks after workers declared a labor dispute, during which no negotiations were held between employee representatives and management. The company is withholding wages by delaying payment of special bonuses unique to Elisra, which are supposed to be included in calculating workers' pension rights, Galili said.

On the issue that management is trying to do away with organized labor at Elisra, Galili said that "the new owners of Elisra, Elbit Systems and Elta, made a commitment not to break the status quo, according to which most company workers are subject to the collective wage agreement, and that they would be represented by the Histadrut and the company workers committees."

An Elisra employees spokesperson said, "Workers contributed $14 million to the company in recent years through wage base cuts and concomitant conditions. Now it's management's turn to cut back its expenses and to reduce the high costs of executive salaries in the company."

A spokesperson for Elisra commented, "The company regrets the strike and hopes the disputes between the sides, to the extent that there are any, will be worked out in a down-to-earth atmosphere, without causing turmoil."