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A spur for faltering Israeli airline

On the verge of being shot down by its own government, Israel's national airline, El Al, received a possible reprieve this week. Most of its employees caved in to demands by the airline's board of directors for tough new management guidelines, Monitor contributor Abraham Rabinovich reports.

Hit by 69 strikes in the past decade - all but one of them without union authorization - the airline was shut down by management six weeks ago and steps were launched for its liquidation.

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As the Cabinet was meeting Sunday to endorse these steps, representatives of El Al's ground staff of 5,000 reversed their previous stand and declared their readiness to open negotiations over the management guidelines. These include the dismissal of some 1,000 employees and the right of management to fire anyone striking without union authorization.

Transport Minister Haim Corfu said that unless a new labor agreement is reached within three weeks, when the company's shareholders are scheduled to meet, they will approve a request to the court to liquidate the airline. The government owns most of El Al's shares.

Endangering the prospect of agreement is the refusal thus far of El Al's pilots to join their fellow employees in acceding to the demand for new guidelines.

If El Al is liquidated, a Cabinet statement said, ''the government will act to form and operate a new, efficient, and profitable company.''

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