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Postal workers decided yesterday to continue their sanctions into a second week, despite having caused damage estimated in the millions of shekels.

Hundreds of Postal Authority staffers convened in a protest meeting yesterday in Tel Aviv, during work hours, shutting post offices early throughout the country.

During the meeting, dozens of doves were released from the roof of the Va'ad Hapoel building to symbolize "the regression" of postal services that will be reached if competition is allowed to grow unchecked in the industry, according to Reuven Kharazi, head of the workers committee.

The workers agreed to up their sanctions, which have consisted mostly of closing post offices early, and they considered launching an all-out strike after Pesach, if there is no progress in talks with the government.

Kharazi said there had be no progress in talks over ensuring workers' conditions after any restructuring of the Postal Authority, including pension arrangements.

The government planned to convert the authority to a state-owned company on January 1, 2005, but delayed the move as it had yet to reach an agreement with the workers. Changes in the cabinet since then, particularly the appointment of Dalia Itzik as communications minister, have also held up the restructuring, as the new minister has insisted she "learn the matter thoroughly" before agreeing to any changes.

The disgruntled staffers also complained that the Postal Authority's management had taken no preventive action, and had capitulated to "the reality of pirate companies penetrating the delivery market and downsizing the authority's field of activity."

The director general of the Postal Authority, Yossi Shelly, called on the government and workers to sit down and talk, in the hope of reaching agreement.

Tamara Lev adds: In its defense to a lawsuit over the loss of undelivered mail, the Postal Authority called for the suit to be dismissed out of hand. In its submission yesterday, the authority said that the Post Law specifically cleared it of any responsibility for the loss of items that never reached their destination unless they were sent registered post.

Emron Special Law Services filed a lawsuit last week against the Postal Authority for failure to deliver letters. Emron sued the authority to reimburse it for the cost of posting four items - at a total cost of NIS 5.30 - that were never delivered, and to recognize the suit as a NIS 110 million class action.