Histadrut chairman optimistic about ending El Al crisis this week

Nissenkorn: Agreement hinges on the legal phrasing.

November 29, 2016 22:09
2 minute read.
an EL AL Boeing 777 aircraft at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv,

An EL AL Boeing 777 aircraft at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv,. (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)

Speaking at the Sderot Conference for Society on Tuesday, Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn said that an agreement between El Al pilots and management will be signed in a day or two.

The negotiations between the sides began last Tuesday under Nissenkorn’s mediation, but have since exploded twice including yesterday, right before signing the legal agreement.

The quarreling parties met on Sunday night with Nissenkorn to finalize conditions for ending the work-torule strike that has accelerated over the past two weeks, resulting in the cancellation of dozens of flights. Following the meeting, Histadrut and El Al management publicly announced the resolution of the conflict and crisis prior to signing the understandings into law.

However, on Monday morning when both sides appeared with their legal teams, the pilots stormed out and claimed that the understandings made on Sunday were not phrased in the legal document. The pilots later agreed to return to negotiations with the mediation of chairman of the National Transportation Workers Union Avi Edri.

“[The crisis] is on the road to conclusion, right now it is only about the legal phrasing of the agreement. I believe that it will be signed in a day or two,” said Nissenkorn on Tuesday.

“There is a problem there with work procedures that have existed for 20 years but only cause an unhealthy interaction between the pilots and the management.”

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.

El Al maintained that actions taken by the pilots including the strike and the failure of the negotiations rounds was an attempt to improve their bargaining position both for the agreement and for their future collective work agreement to be resigned in 2018. Representatives of the pilots, on the other hand, maintained that the strike is aimed to better the conditions of all El Al workers, but did not specify in what ways.

“I sat down with all the sectors in El Al, starting with the weakest employees without tenure. Later I sat with the management and the pilots in order to try and create shared interests for the benefit of the citizens hurt by this crisis,” Nissenkorn explained in the Sderot Conference.

“The rest of El Al’s employees – administrative workers, flight attendants, temporary employees even – got what they wanted. We made great advancements for all sectors of El Al workers, it’s really down to the pilots and management now,” Avi Edri, chairman of the National Transportation Workers Union, told The Jerusalem Post.

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