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The Histadrut labor federation is planning to call a general strike in the public sector to protest the government's economic policies.

The workers' committees of the Civil Service, local authorities, religious councils, government corporations and national institutions, as well as the Postal Authority, the Ports Authority and other statutory bodies are due to declare a work dispute today, encompassing some 700,000 workers.

After a two-week "cooling-off period," a general strike can be called.

The sanctions will affect services such as trains, the oil refineries, TV and radio broadcasts, activities at the ports and the issuing of passports.

"The last wage agreement with the public-sector workers was valid only until 2001 and no new agreement has been signed since then," said Jihad Akal, acting head of the Histadrut's trade union division. "The Histadrut agreed to the former finance minister's demand to lower public-sector wages... The time has come to pay the workers back."