Israeli Hoopsters Declare Work Dispute Over Status of Foreign Players

Meeting between players union, basketball league management ends without progress, putting season finale in jeopardy.

The Israeli basketball players union declared a labor dispute with the Super League administration and team owners on Thursday over the status of foreign players in the league next season, putting the upcoming playoffs in jeopardy.

No progress was made in a meeting held yesterday between the administration and player representatives, headed by chairman Nir Alon, during which the administration's CEO, Edli Markus, proposed maintaining the status quo allowing teams to choose between putting four foreigners on the game-day roster and being able to put them all on the court at the same time, or putting five foreigners on the roster and always keeping at least two Israelis on the court.

Alon told administration representatives that because there is a concern that no agreement will be reached by the next meeting, scheduled for March 10, he intended to declare a labor dispute, since by law there is a mandatory period between declaring a labor dispute and being able to go onstrike.

Observers say they believe the union may begin striking March 17, when the second-to-last slate of regular season games is scheduled.

"Last Monday, a meeting was held between the players union and administration representatives at which it was agreed upon to continue negotiating March 10,"the league administration announced in an official statement. "Thus, it is puzzling that after one meeting when a further meeting was set, the players union declared a labor dispute, making the empty claim in itsannouncement that the owners and administration refused to negotiate the signing of a new contract."

The administration stated: "It's clear to all that the intent of the players union is to damage the proper running of the league and the all-star gamewithout any reason and within the period of the contract, which expires at season's end, indicating that the players union does not honor its agreementswith the administration."

The administration stated further it saw the union's move as a very grave unilateral step and called on the union to withdraw the labor dispute declaration and continue meeting for talks as the two sides set this week.

Nir Keidar