Ben Gurion Airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Workers at the Airports Authority went on a threehour strike Thursday in solidarity with postal workers in the midst of a labor dispute, temporarily shutting down Ben-Gurion Airport.
The strike was called for 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., but the initial security check was already halted at 10:30 a.m. An estimated 8,000 passengers were expected to be stranded during the strike.
The Israel Postal Company labor dispute could see 1,500 workers laid off. Already, the dispute has stopped mail delivery, closed post office branches and hit various public institutions, disrupting service in district health offices. They have put the squeeze on the government by refusing to collect taxes or process fines.
On Thursday, Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissankoren threatened to shut down government services – including the airport – in a general strike over the issue if the Histadrut’s demands are not met.
“If there will not be a joint process to close the gaps, and if the workers continue to be treated as invisible, we will arrive at a general strike,” he said at an emergency meeting at the Histadrut headquarters in Tel Aviv. He did not specify a timeline.
Nissankoren said the Histadrut had already swallowed hundreds of lay-offs and extended working hours for the Israel Postal Company, and that other layoffs were unwarranted. The company intended to simply fire the 1,500 workers and replace them with contract workers, thus avoiding having to pay the benefits due full-time workers, he said.
Finance Ministry and Postal Company officials argue they have no choice but to find new efficiencies in the money-losing, government-owned company.
Over two weeks have passed since the Histadrut issued an official labor dispute over the matter, giving the union legal right to move forward with a strike. The National Labor Court could prevent such a move.
The general strike would be Nissankoren’s first as chairman of the Histadrut, a position he took earlier this year after his predecessor Ofer Eini stepped down.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.