AN EL AL Boeing 777 aircraft is seen at Ben-Gurion Airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An El Al flight to New York was nearly cancelled on Thursday night while three more flights were chartered out by El Al to foreign carriers, as negotiations to end the pilots’ strike experience another set-back. Pilots again refused to report for duty unless they were allowed to fly in only one direction while being paid by El Al to make the return leg as business class passengers.
According to a Histdrut labor federation spokesperson, Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn intervened in the last moment and through coordination with El Al CEO David Maimon, it was agreed that flight 027 will leave as scheduled.
“Unfortunately, despite the agreements we made during our meetings with Histadrut chairman Nissenkorn earlier this week, the pilots continue to act like bullies in order to force El Al management into changing the agreement for their benefit,” stated an El Al representative on Thursday night.
For more than a week, El Al pilots and management have been negotiating terms for a work agreement that will put an end to the escalation in the pilots’ work-to-rule strike that caused the last minute cancellation of more than three dozen flights in the past month. Twice before - on Sunday night and on Tuesday - El Al management and Nissenkorn optimistically announced the resolution of the work conflict and the end of the strike, saying that all the agreements have been made and that the aries are now in the stage of signing the legal contract.
Since 2014, El Al pilots have engaged in a work dispute with management over a variety of issues. Measures taken by the pilots include their refusal to man flights unless they are allowed to fly the plane in just one direction, while returning in business class – a practice called flight-splitting. Until last week, management begrudgingly accepted the practice in order to keep things running smoothly, but with no resolution in sight, has taken a harder line. In order avoid canceling as few flights as possible, El Al management has taken to chartering flights under threat of cancellation due to the strike to other airliners and crews, a practice referred to as “wet chartering.” Pilots then escalated their work-to-rule strike and refused to fly altogether unless they can flight-split.
Following the escalation of the conflict, Nissenkorn convened El Al CEO David Maimon and pilot representatives for several negotiation rounds. During that time El Al experienced two short periods in which business returned to normal, however these didn’t last as the latest period of calm ended on Thursday night due to reasons neither party is willing to specify.
“It is a shame that even in the middle of negotiations aimed at reaching a work agreement, management continues to harm its passengers and continues to defame and spread lies about its workers; We were more than willing to man the cancelled flights today,” stated a representative of the pilots.