An Egged bus sits in a parking lot .
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Histadrut labor federation plans to call a one-day strike for Egged bus drivers Monday as a warning to the company’s management to fall in line over wages.
“I hope that Egged’s management will come to its senses and walk back its steps in the coming day,” Histadrut transport union chairman Avi Edri said late Saturday night.
Edri accuses Egged of taking unilateral steps that will harm thousands of bus workers’ wages and working conditions.
The threat follows an Egged plan to lay off 160 workers and reduce work hours as a means of cutting NIS 100 million from its annual expenditure. A strike, it said, would jeopardize the jobs of its 6,500 employees.
Egged promised to keep buses running one way or another on Monday, but drivers have already been protesting in more subtle ways, showing up for work in casual clothes instead of uniforms, and turning off GPS devices that help customers know when the bus is coming.
The Histadrut called the Egged union leaders to a Sunday meeting to plan for the eventuality of a strike.
In response to the claims that a strike would occur on Monday, Egged spokesman Ron Ratner reiterated that public transportation services from the company would continue to operate regardless. Ratner called upon the workers committee as well as the Histadrut to be more responsible in reporting to the media, rather than generating panic unnecessarily.
While a strike would certainly cause disruptions in public transportation operations, he stressed that buses will still continue to function.
“This is an unjustified strike that ignores the fact that Egged for a long time has not been the same monopoly, with undisputed control over the public transportation sector, and we are committed to implementing a streamlining plan at an extent of NIS 100m. a year, in order to fit the organization to the scope of existing operations,” Ratner said.
Emphasizing that Egged has not at all deviated from collective agreements signed with the workers committee and with the Histadrut, Ratner said it is unclear why the Histadrut would support a strike. Wages of Egged workers are on average about 30 percent higher than those of other public transportation drivers, despite company operations decreasing by about 30% in the last decade, he added.
“I regret the aggressive approach of the new workers committee, whose irresponsible behavior is likely to harm the public passengers and jeopardize the job security of some 6,500 employees and members of Egged,” Ratner said. “We are preparing to mobilize all license-holding members from among the management and garages, in order to reduce the damage to passengers. I hope that by Monday the Histadrut and the workers committee will come to their senses and adopt a more sensible and responsible approach.”
On Sunday morning, in light of the potential strike, Gush Etzion Regional Council head Davidi Perl sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requesting immediate intervention on the issue.
“Termination of public transportation services in Gush Etzion, even for one day, is life-threatening, and requires residents to hitchhike – standing at intersections and riding in unprotected vehicles,” Perl wrote.
“I request immediate intervention on your part in order to ensure that in the event of a general strike, public transportation activity in Gush Etzion will not stop and will not endanger human lives.”