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The Israel Atomic Energy Commission's union in the south appealed yesterday to the National Labor Court for its employees to receive compensation for daily exposure to safety hazards during their work. The Histadrut labor federation has joined in the struggle.

The union filed an appeal against the decision of the Be'er Sheva Regional Labor Court, which rejected the union's request to issue an order directing IAEC management to obey a work supervision law and safety regulations. The union claims that IAEC workers' safety is not protected according to the law, and they are exposed to dangerous materials, chemicals and cancer-causing radiation.

The regional court accepted IAEC's request to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that the union's claim concerning the dangerous environment to which workers are subjected is theoretical, because no one on the job has contracted cancer.

The appeal countered that "the fact that employees are healthy (save for one who is suffering from cancer) should not pose an obstacle. It's unacceptable that a worker should have to suffer harm to one's body for the gates of the labor court to open up before him."

The union's lawyer filing the appeal retorted that the regional court ignored workers' testimony that the IAEC is violating labor laws and that safety regulations are not being obeyed.

"If workers are denied the possibility of enforcing safety laws in their factory, leaving safety protection in the hands of the employer, the latter will make decisions based on economic considerations," the union claims.

The union said the suit is not a regular damage suit dealing with preventing harm to workers, but rather one meant to oblige the IAEC to comply with safety laws as well as to allow employees to demand and receive financial compensation for damages already suffered.