AN EGGED BUS pulls up in front of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Arguing that they are expecting to become the lowest hourly paid drivers in Israel’s public transportation sector, Egged workers have threatened to launch a nationwide general strike on Monday.
Egged’s drivers have accused their company’s management of refusing to update worker wages and taking unilateral measures that violate employee rights, according to a statement released by the Histadrut labor federation.
The workers, who earn about NIS 32 to NIS 33 per hour, say they fear they will soon become the drivers with the lowest hourly salaries in Israel’s public transportation sector, the statement said.
“It is unthinkable that a company that exists since the establishment of the state would pay the lowest hourly value in public transport, and in addition, will unilaterally damage the wages of workers,” said Avi Edri, chairman of the Transport Workers Union.
“It is our intention to do everything in our power in order to preserve their wages, their honor and the status of Egged workers,” Edri said.
The threat followed numerous attempts by the Histadrut and the Egged Workers Union to resolve the dispute. The threatened strike has been scheduled for Monday to avoid harming members of the public – particularly soldiers making weekly returns to their bases on Sunday.
Yaakov Vahnish, chairman of the Egged Workers Union, said, “We are embarking on a fight because they can no longer underestimate the workers or make unilateral moves behind our backs.”
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“Enough with the inflexibility. We expect that the drivers at the oldest public transportation company in Israel will be able to end the month and earn an honorable living, at least like the employees of other public transportation operators.
“We hope that the management will come around and immediately find a solution to this crisis, before the harm to the drivers and passengers worsens,” Vahnish said.
Egged spokesman Ron Ratner said the threats stem from negotiations based on recent agreements that call for the Treasury to pay for driver wage increases.
“It was clarified that worker demands could only be resolved within the framework of the new agreement, between Egged and the government, for which negotiations are currently being conducted,” Ratner said.
“On the basis of the commitments granted to the employees and to the Histadrut, we call upon the workers to avoid an unnecessary strike, which at this time would only bring about serious damage to Egged passengers and customers,” he added.
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