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Some 1,250 Dan bus company drivers went on strike yesterday after efforts failed to settle a five-year collective wage agreement and bonus payments.

The drivers have set no limit on the strike's duration.

The strike at the bus company, which operates 1,500 buses in Tel Aviv and the Dan region, was launched with no prior warning. Passengers in some areas, particularly Bat Yam, were ordered off the buses as soon as the strike began.

"The salary of Dan drivers has not been increased in the last five years," a driver said yesterday, adding that the time has come to resolve the problem. Dan drivers said their salaries actually had decreased when the company changed from being a cooperative to a corporation more than four years ago.

"The steps taken by the drivers cannot be understood," a Dan spokesman said. "Just yesterday morning we reached an agreement with [the head of the Histadrut's Tel Aviv district, Gershon] Gelman, and now suddenly matters have been reversed. These aren't starving workers, but people who make between NIS 5,000 and NIS 12,000 net, in addition to benefits, who are making demands that we cannot accept."

As the work day came to a close in the Dan region yesterday, the strike led to a significant increase in people taking cabs or traveling on Egged buses in order to get home. A skirmish broke out at the Reading lot in Tel Aviv between Dan drivers and company officials trying to convince them not to strike.

The company began trying to bring back retired drivers yesterday to temporarily take over some of the bus routes, and the Dan board met last night to decide what action it would take today to end the strike. Dan is considering asking the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court to force the drivers and Histadrut to halt the strike and return to the negotiating table.