israel railways 311POLICE AND RESCUE workers survey the scen.
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
The head of the Histadrut labor federation met late on Monday with the CEO of
Israel Railways in a last-ditch effort to avert a strike of transportation
Railways workers threatened Monday to launch a
strike starting Tuesday, after failing to reach an agreement with management in
late-night negotiations the day before. Later Monday, Histadrut chairman Ofer
Eini declared a labor dispute and threatened to widen the strike to include
workers in other transportation-related fields.
Eini has said Railways
management must reverse all of its recent firings and suspensions as a
precondition to the labor union returning to the negotiating table. Otherwise,
he said, rail workers would move forward with Tuesday’s strike, and non-rail
workers would be eligible to strike in two weeks.
A wider strike would
include employees of Ben-Gurion Airport and other air and sea ports, the Jerusalem Light
Rail, bus carriers Dan and Egged and the Zim cargo shipping
Israel Railways has been embroiled in an ongoing labor dispute
that has led to train delays as well as a number of strikes. This weekend rail
employees announced they would stop checking passengers’ tickets indefinitely,
to protest a previous decision by the company’s management to outsource
maintenance services to a foreign contractor.
Earlier this week the
national rail carrier suspended the chairwoman of its employee board for three
months with a warning for making threats against company executives. The
authorities suspended six other workers under similar conditions and fired two
On Monday, employee board chairwoman Gila Edrei said
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz was conducting a “provocation” in order to
sow division among employees.
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“The committee heads are elected
representatives of the rail workers. If they suspend us, we have a right to
strike,” she told Army Radio.
Railways CEO Boaz Zafrir told the station
the current situation is “catastrophic.”
“Throughout the legitimate union
campaign, which has lasted 18 months, we offered the employees many alternatives
regarding maintenance,” he said.
“We don’t want this
confrontation. We want to improve the railways, which are in catastrophic
condition. Train maintenance is in terrible shape, and the workers committee is
using every means possible, including violence, to prevent an
Asked if passengers were in danger, Zafrir said, “There is
no risk to passengers, but there is a risk to the continued existence of railway
equipment. The delays and breakdowns of passenger trains are partly because of
The Railways CEO said he is not considering firing
Edrei, who he insisted will return to her job after her three-month
In response, Israel Railways’ management said “The
Histadrut’s instruction to workers not to appear before the disciplinary
committees undermines the rule of law and is in contempt of court. We regret
that the Histadrut has been dragged into defending the workers’ committee
representatives at any price.”Jerusalem Post staff and Globes
contributed to this report
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