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The Histadrut labor federation officially declared an industrial dispute on Friday at 28 hospitals, the National Insurance Institute and the Pi Glilot fuel company.

The declaration is a legal prelude to full industrial action; after a period of two weeks, the staffers at these places can launch protest actions, including all-out strikes.

The dispute at the hospitals, including general, geriatric and psychiatric facilities, was requested by the hospital workers union, which represents some 8,000 people. The reason for the dispute was "exceptionally heavy work loads at the hospitals."

Union head Batya Levy explained that part of the extra workload was a result of the recent outbreaks of flu, which have led to overcrowding in many hospital wards.

"The Finance Ministry stops the taking on of extra staff to replace those retiring early or those who have reached the natural retirement age," she said, adding that every time a state-owned hospital advertises for a new job, it is required at the same time to cancel an existing one.

The industrial dispute at the National Insurance Institute centers around the claims by the staffers that the NII has broken existing collective work agreements covering the 4,000-strong payroll there.

According to the disgruntled workers, the NII management announced that it was stopping several bonuses, such as the one paid to those who deal with victims of terror attacks. The workers are also demanding extra pay for working irregular hours, as well as those who are dealing with the Wisconsin Plan (that is being tried out in selected places for its impact on unemployment) in addition to their regular work.

The Pi Glilot fuel storage company has closed its Ramat Hasharon facility and its workers have been reemployed at several locations around the country.