Striking workers at Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor, long reported to be an atomic bomb factory, threatened on Monday, May 7, to shut down the facility unless the government met their wage demands.
Israel refers to the Dimona reactor as a research facility and has never confirmed foreign media reports that it produces nuclear weapons at the secluded Negev Desert site.
Shalom Shemla, the head of the workers' union, said a skeleton staff had continued working for safety reasons since the strike began on Sunday. "We will tell everyone to leave their stations and go home (if negotiations do not start)," Shemla told Israeli army radio.
An Israeli physicist, who declined to be identified, said a shutdown of the Dimona reactor, about 125 kilometers (75 miles) from Tel Aviv, would pose no danger to the public. "If they (the strikers) are responsible, they will shut it down in such a way that will not endanger anyone," the physicist told Reuters. Workers at the Dimona reactor last went on strike 10 years ago.
An unwanted world spotlight was shone on the facility in 1986 when Dimona nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper that the site was an atomic bomb factory. Lured from Britain to Italy by a female Israeli agent, Vanunu was kidnapped and brought back to Israel, where he is serving a life sentence for treason and espionage.
Shemla said the workers had reached agreement with their managers to receive a 2.5 percent wage increase after wide discrepancies — sometimes of up to 25 percent — were found between their salaries and those of other security officials.
He said the Finance Ministry had decided at the last minute not to honor the deal that was the result of years of negotiations. The Finance Ministry said in a statement that the strike was illegal and had not been approved by the national Histadrut Labor Union. It said it would check the workers' allegations that a wage agreement had not been honored. — (Reuters, Jerusalem)
By Ramit Plushnick-Masti
© Reuters 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)