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The Israel Electric Corporation intends to declare a lockout against workers in one of its divisions, the first time it has taken such a step in its more than 80 years of existence.

By law, a company may call a lockout if it is incapable of operating due to unreasonable sanctions by its workers. IEC management claims that the situation has reached this pass in parts of the company's engineering planning division, and therefore, it informed the Histadrut yesterday of its intention to shut down those sections.

Workers are not paid during a lockout, which is essentially a strike called by management.

"For some time, certain IEC workers - engineers and technicians in the company's northern district - have engaged in illegal, wildcat sanctions," management wrote in its letter to the Histadrut. "Over the last two weeks, these sanctions have been stepped up. Even worse, they have included acts of violent, aggressive hooliganism, which have no place in labor relations in general and in the IEC's collective labor relations in particular... These sanctions have caused, and continue to cause, serious damage to the IEC every day."

The sanctions have made it impossible for the company to operate four departments within the engineering planning division, the letter continued, and therefore, it has "no operational capability of continuing to employ these departments' workers."

IEC officials said that to the best of their knowledge, the sanctions in question have not been approved by the Histadrut, the national executive of the company's union, or the local executive of the union's northern district. IEC union leaders accused the leaders of the northern engineers of being on a "personal ego trip" that harms both the engineers whom they claim to represent and the rest of the company's workers.

"I will use all the tools at my disposal to prevent the engineers' representatives from harming the engineers themselves, the IEC workers in general and the company's customers," the chairman of the national union's secretariat said in response.