UPDATE 1-Israeli labour union threatens major strike ahead of election

Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:28am EST
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By Ari Rabinovitch

JERUSALEM Feb 26 (Reuters) - Israel's main labour union threatened on Thursday to shut down a large part of the economy just days before a parliamentary election unless one of the largest companies in the country reverses a plan to reduce its workforce.

The head of the Histadrut labour federation said a weeks-long dispute with potash maker Israel Chemicals (ICL) reflected wider problems and would be expanded into a general strike in all of southern Israel unless the job cuts are nulled.

"We need to cause shockwaves here," said Avi Nissenkorn, whose federation represents hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, in an interview with Army Radio.

ICL, a maker of fertilizer and speciality chemicals, is Israel's second-largest traded company and is controlled by conglomerate Israel Corp.

Opinions polls show a tight race ahead of the March 17 election, campaigning for which has been dominated by economic issues like high living costs and workers wages.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office would not comment on the threatened general strike.

Nissenkorn accused the government of neglecting Israel's arid south -- roughly half the country -- and instead focusing economic support on commercial centres near Tel Aviv.

Tens of thousands of workers from government offices and private sector business would stay home if the strike goes into effect on March 12 as planned, the Histadrut said.   Continued...