Clalit Workers to Protest Downsizing

Infuriated over being left out of the decision-making process, 30,000 Clalit Health Services workers are threatening to strike against a decision to reduce expenses by closing 10 percent of its clinics and labs, and its school for nursing and X-ray studies.

The head of the Clalit Employees' Union, Prosper Ben-Hamu, accused management of eliminating nursing and administrative positions without first reaching agreement with the union.

Negotiations hit an impasse a few days ago, and external efforts to bridge the gaps failed. Ben-Hamu blamed Clalit CEO Zev Vermbrand for taking "one-sided actions."

Ben-Hamu instructed workers to begin today sanctions such as preventing cleaning staff from entering, not transfering phone calls and mail to management, and not printing referrals for insured members for private medical institutes. Management sought a restraining order from the Tel Aviv Labor Court late last night. "At a time when departments are coping with 150-180 percent occupation rates, and the clinics are collapsing under the weight of patients, launching sanctions is irresponsible," a Clalit spokesman said.

Sources noted that recent measures had already eliminated the HMO's debt, which had reached NIS 700 million.