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The Histadrut labor federation is about to raise its membership dues by 5-14 percent to help cover its humongous debts of NIS 1.3 billion. From January 2005, full members of the labor federation will pay 0.95 percent of their wages to the Histadrut, up from the current 0.9 percent, while other members will pay 0.8 percent of their wages, up from the current 0.7 percent.

The proposal to raise membership fees has been submitted by Histadrut chairman MK Amir Peretz, and is expected to garner a large majority on its vote today in the labor federation.

There are, however, opponents to the increase. Members of the "Oz opposition" spoke out yesterday, with one arguing that "at a time when workers' wages in the economy are not rising and in some sectors are falling, we shouldn't be taking from the workers and raising their payments."

Oz representative, Zvi Gutwatter, added that "raising membership dues is a sign of failure in managing the Histadrut's funds."

The chairman of the Likud Knesset faction, MK Gideon Sa'ar, called on Peretz to retract the "scandalous intentions" to raise the fees, accusing the chairman of appearing insensitive to the workers' situation.

"We are raising membership dues for the first time in 10 years," a spokesman for the Histadrut said yesterday. "The reason for this is our plan to operate an on-line information center for the 600,000 Histadrut members... that will give them coverage on work conditions, wages, labor laws and pension insurance. The center will employ actuaries and jurists, a necessity when dealing with such substantial expenditure."