Labor Strife / This Is Just the First Course

This week's labor disputes are a mere prelude to "the big one" in mid-March: a lockout of all government offices, cessation of sanitation services, and the climax - closure of Ben Gurion Airport.

All of the current disputes - teachers, lecturers, doctors, local authorities, trains, ports and postal services - will be dwarfed by the ultimate labor dispute over new public sector wage agreements.

The Histadrut is demanding an increase of 13 percent, which would add an annual burden of NIS 10 billion. The treasury is offering 0 percent, claiming an existing automatic annual increase of 2 percent due to seniority rating.

And why March of all times? Well, now is too early.

The dispute is still not ripe. Now is the moment for local strikes. And April won't do - Passover is in early April, and paralyzing the entire country during a holiday is not looked upon favorably.

Plus, there are lots of vacation days, and workers should not be deprived.

Then there are matriculation tests - teachers wouldn't dare strike then. And most of all, elections for the Histadrut chair will be held on May 15 - it's not nice to hold a strike on the eve of elections. So only March remains.

Get ready for the big one.