Sporadic industrial strikes and a three-hour walkout by government civil servants disrupted the Israeli economy today as government and labor union leaders continued negotiations on implementation of an economic austerity program.
The strikes by electrical and telephone workers as well as seamen on Israeli ships in port were the first since the Histadrut, Israel's national trade union federation, called a 24-hour general strike last week to protest the new economic measures.
Meanwhile, many national and local government offices were closed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in a protest over the proposed dismissal of about 10,000 public employes. There were also signs that the labor unrest could grow more serious in the coming days as officials of several other unions met to consider authorizing strikes.
Israeli radio reported tonight that the Histadrut had decided to call another general strike beginning Sunday if there is no agreement with the government by then.
In an effort to head that off and get the latest government economic recovery program in place, Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Finance Minister Yitzhak Modai met again today with Yisrael Kessar, secretary general of the Histadrut. There were no reports of progress in these negogtiations, but Peres' press spokesman, Uri Savir, said the three officials would meet again Wednesday.
Peres pushed the economic austerity program through the Cabinet during a 24-hour meeting that ended July 1. Some of its provisions -- including a sharp cut in government subsidies of basic commodities and an 18.8 percent currency devaluation -- were imposed immediately.
But Peres, reacting to the strong objections of the Histadrut, delayed the implementation of other emergency orders designed to reduce the real wages of Israeli workers as part of the country's attempt to overcome its persistent triple-digit inflation.
The emergency decrees would impose a three-month wage freeze, provide some compensation this month for the higher prices caused by the subsidy cuts but deny workers their traditional cost-of-living wage increases for the rest of the three-month emergency period.
Kessar has charged that this would mean a one-third reduction in real wages during the next three months, while government officials insist that the wage erosion would be only about 13 percent.
The government-Histadrut negotiations have centered on this issue of wage erosion and cost-of-living compensation as well as the trade union federation's objections to the dismissal of 10,000 public employes. Peres and Modai reportedly have offered the unions about a 10 percent cost-of-living wage increase this month and lower income tax brackets in October, at the end of the emergency period.
In a briefing for foreign correspondents here, Michael Bruno, an economics professor and an adviser to Peres on the austerity program, repeated Peres' assertion that Israel's increasingly desperate economic situation left it no choice but to act now to try to break the inflationary spiral and preserve the country's rapidly dwindling foreign currency reserves.
"This program is a gamble," Bruno said. "You walk in a maze and gamble that you are moving forward . . . . This is certainly less risky than the alternative, which would be to let things go and wait for the big crisis."
Bruno said the program called for a $1.5 billion saving in the government budget, made up of the already implemented subsidy cuts, a variety of tax increases and about $400 million in reductions in government activities. He acknowledged that most Israeli economists believe the government budget reductions should be more than $1.5 billion.
The national unity government headed by Peres has announced major budget cuts in the past, but Bruno said only "halfway measures" actually were implemented. As a result, he said, the projected government deficit for 1985 was already $1.2 billion higher than when the budget was adopted in March.
"The chances of success hinge on the government really taking this program seriously," Bruno said.
Bruno called today's strikes, and the threat that more unions would walk off the job, "part of the negotiating game." He added, however, that it was still not clear whether the Histadrut could get all of its affiliated unions to go along with a wage erosion program being negotiated with the government.