Court postpones El Al shakeup that would ground all flights

Eight El Al airline supervisors are threatening to resign, including the company's chief pilot, without whom a flight company cannot legally operate.

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February 15, 2017 18:09
3 minute read.
Baggage carts are seen on the tarmac near an El Al Israel Airlines plane at Venice airport

Baggage carts are seen on the tarmac near an El Al Israel Airlines plane at Venice airport. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Delaying a situation that could ground all El Al flights, the Tel Aviv Labor Court on Wednesday ordered the company’s management and pilots threatening resignation to continue intensive negotiations until Shabbat begins.

The talks in question concern the resignation of eight supervisors, including the company’s chief pilot, without whom a flight company cannot legally operate. The supervisors announced their intentions to resign amid escalating tensions regarding pilots who have reached the age of 65 and are no longer allowed to fly, but who are also not eligible for Israeli government pensions until the age of 67.

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“You have a pilot working at El Al for 30 to 40 years, and then suddenly at the age of 65 they are saying now you cannot fly,” Avi Edri, chairman of the National Transportation Workers Union at the Histadrut labor federation, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“This is the first strike, and the second strike is that we are going to reduce your salary by two-thirds,” he continued. “We have to save the salary; we have to save their honor. If you are captain and one day someone will tell you now you are a clerk and have to answer calls, that’s something you cannot agree to.”

The rules of both the Israel Civil Aviation Authority and the International Civil Aviation Organization mandate that pilots can no longer operate commercial flights when they reach the age of 65. At the same time, however, Israeli law also does not allow for receipt of government pensions until the age 67.

Due to their reduced responsibilities after age 65, the pilots also saw a decrease in their salaries. Among the new responsibilities of the pilots in the 65-67 age range is the operation of flight simulators, teaching new pilots how to fly planes from the ground, Edri explained.

As disputes about the wages and responsibilities of these pilots continued, eight El Al supervisors, including the chief pilot, decided to announce their resignations, despite the fact that they do not fall within the 65-67 age category. The chief pilot decided that he was not willing to take responsibility for accidents that could occur in midair or during landings as a result of the escalating tensions among the company’s employees, according to Edri.

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“If he resigns, the law in Israel says that without the chief of the pilots, you cannot run a flying company in Israel,” he said.

As the negotiations continue over the next two days, the employees are demanding a better salary for the 65- to 67-year-old pilots, including a special fee for the simulator training sessions that they conduct, Edri explained.

“I think that the government is responsible for this,” he said. “You have to change the law in Israel and say that pilots will go to pension and be dismissed from the company at age 65. This will solve the problem.

“I hope that there will be good results,” he added.

After the court ruling on Wednesday, extending the negotiations until the beginning of Shabbat, a statement from El Al stressed that “the court accepted the stance of the company’s management and ordered the postponement of the resignations of the supervisors, in accordance with the procedural agreement.

“The court gave a tailwind to the company’s management and directed the parties to negotiations on the matter of the age of 65 and clarified the relationship between the resignations and the disputes in the ongoing negotiations,” the statement continued. “The El Al management proved that its concern for the company’s travelers and its employees is a top priority and will do everything to maintain regular operations.”

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