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The Histadrut labor federation will declare a national labor dispute that could lead to a general strike if the 2007 budget proposal is not changed within a short period, Histadrut chair Ofer Eini said yesterday.

"The current budget proposal is worse than the one the Finance Ministry prepared when Benjamin Netanyahu headed the ministry," added Eini. According to him, the Histadrut will arrange work disruptions in the country in the coming days if the treasury doesn't back down from the majority of its proposals, among them cutbacks in National Insurance Institute payments, cancelling some of the preferred jobs for released soldiers and raising the age eligibility for unemployment payments.

"The treasury has a budget for covering the war," Eini said. "Just recently, the Iscar deal was signed, bringing in NIS 4 billion in tax revenue to state coffers, in addition to tax revenue surpluses of NIS 215 billion. The treasury is acting like a private business, whose goal is to enlarge its profits and not to serve the public."

Eini added that the budget proposal includes far-reaching reforms that harm workers' rights through legislation. "There's an intent to fire thousands of civil servants in a unilateral decision, without negotiations with the unions and the Histadrut."

Eini warned that in the wake of the budget proposal, he intended to abandon the policy of strike aversion and preferring dialogue with the government. Instead, he would open the way to strikes because he opposes moves that "harm large groups within the population." (Haim Bior)