AN EL AL Boeing 777 aircraft is seen at Ben-Gurion Airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ending a crisis that could have grounded all El Al flights, the company’s management and pilots came reached agreement on Thursday after negotiating through the night.
The talks concerned eight supervisors, including the company’s chief pilot, without whom an air operations company cannot legally function.
The supervisors had 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 not eligible for pensions until the age of 67.
By Thursday morning, the sides agreed to a memorandum of understanding, which was cemented in an agreement later that day.
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. Yet Israeli law also does not allow for receipt of government pensions until age 67.
Due to their reduced responsibilities after age 65, the pilots saw a sharp decrease in their salaries.
Among the 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, explained Avi Edri, chairman of the National Transportation Workers Union at the Histadrut labor federation.
In response to the disputes about the wages and responsibilities of these pilots, eight El Al supervisors, including the chief pilot, had announced their resignations, despite the fact that they do not fall within the 65-67 age category.
Rather, 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 tense workplace environment, according to Edri.
On Thursday, the parties agreed that the pilots will continue to receive a basic salary of NIS 50,000 per month, Edri told The Jerusalem Post. In addition, they will be required to conduct 10 simulator training sessions per month, and for each they will receive NIS 1,000-NIS 1,100. Meanwhile, some 15 to 20 pilots will retire early, each receiving a grant of NIS 500,000-NIS 600,000, Edri said.
After the parties reached an initial understanding in the morning, the El Al management praised the agreement for “regulating the controversial issues on the matter of retirement and employment of pilots age 65-67.
“We sincerely apologize to passengers impacted in the recent time period,” a statement from the management said. “We are confident that it will now be possible to return the company to its regular activity for the benefit of all the company’s customers and 6,000 employees.”