Jerusalem light rail.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Less than six weeks after staging a short-lived de facto strike by calling in sick en mass amid heated salary negotiations, the labor union representing Jerusalem light rail workers have announced that employees would formally strike on Tuesday.
Citing failed ongoing negotiations over increased wages, Histadrut, (General Federation of Labor in Israel), issued a statement on Monday saying that 70 light rail employees will participate in the strike, which will likely result in major disruptions, if not a complete halt in service.
According to Jerusalem area Histadrut head Danny Bonfil, the strike is being enacted after six months of negotiations with CityPass, which manages the light rail, failed to result in mutually agreed upon terms.
“I call on the management to come to its senses and to stop the injury in the shape of the workers’ employment terms and their low wages,” said Bonfil in a statement.
“These are responsible employees who have so far acceded to all requests to refrain from organizational action, in the hope that this would lead to improvement in their employment conditions.”
Bonfil alleged that over the past several years CityPass has not delivered on promised wage increases.
“For the past three and a half years, the company’s management has promised that the drivers will receive wage rises after an agreement is signed with them, but it has acted insensitively and has not tried to make progress on the matter,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that a light rail operator receives [a salary of] just NIS 6,700 gross monthly, when he transports 600 passengers all day and is responsible for them, including in the face of the security dangers along the route. We cannot continue to tolerate such wages and employment conditions.”
In response, CityPass said it is “surprised” by the strike, which comes despite “unprecedented” offers of a wage raise for drivers.
“We are in the throes of negotiations with Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn, in the course of which we made an unprecedented offer of a substantial wage rise for the drivers that even exceeds the hourly rate that the bus drivers will receive under the new format,” CityPass said.
“This is scandalous behavior by the chairman of the workers committee and the chairman of the Histadrut in Jerusalem, demonstrating complete indifference to the severe and unnecessary damage to the Jerusalem public, and at such a sensitive time in the city.”
Shortly after September’s brief light rail strike, which caused significant service disruptions for several hours during Succot, a Jerusalem District Labor Court judge ordered light rail drivers to return to work immediately.
Additionally, the Transportation Ministry announced it would increase the number of buses on the light rail’s routes, with Egged stepping up its service on lines 20, 21, 23, 27, and 29, extending to the Central Bus Station, instead of only to Mt. Herzl.
It remains unclear if the district court will again issue an injunction to light rail employees to compel the workers to return to work, or if extra bus lines have been commissioned.Globes contributed to this report.