EL AL Plane 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Histadrut labor federation laid the groundwork Monday for an airlines
strike, declaring a labor dispute at El Al, Arkia and Israir less than 24 hours
after a seaport workers’ strike ended.
The Histadrut said the declaration
was made in response to the Civil Aviation Authority’s decision to sign an “Open
Skies” agreement with the European Union. Such an agreement would allow any
European airline to land in Israel from anywhere within the 27 EU member
countries at any time.
According to the Histadrut, neither party has
consulted with workers on the impending deal. It claimed that if left in its
current format, the agreement would damage the competitiveness of Israel’s
aviation industry and put at risk the jobs of the 7,000 workers employed by El
Al, Arkia and Israir and the 25,000 workers employed directly through the
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz responded
immediately to the Histadrut declaration, saying he had instructed the Civil
Aviation Authority earlier Monday not to sign an Open Skies deal before properly
examining the ability of Israeli airlines to deal with it. The CAA, formerly
known as the Civil Aviation Administration, was transformed into a statutory
authority within the Transportation Ministry in 2005.
agreement with the EU would increase competition, lower the cost of flights to
consumers and increase the number of tourists to Israel, while also protecting
the Israeli airlines, Katz said Monday during a meeting with the chief
executives of El Al, Arkia and Israir.
“As transportation minister I have
the responsibility to ensure the strength of Israeli airlines,” he said. “This
is how I acted when I approved El Al’s application to operate regular flights to
Eilat alongside Arkia and Israir, and this is how I intend to act on the matter
of Open Skies.”
At a tourism conference in Eilat three weeks ago, El Al
CEO Eliezer Shkedi said the Open Skies agreement must be based on clear
definitions, warning that if Israeli companies are not protected, it could cause
the local aviation industry to collapse.
This latest labor dispute
follows a string of Histadrut-endorsed strikes
that business groups estimate
have cost the economy hundreds of millions of shekels. Workers at the Haifa,
Ashdod and Eilat ports held a one-day strike over pension-related demands
Railway workers walked off the job for two days on February 13-14
to protest management’s use of outside contractors.
A general strike was
held February 8-12 over the employment status of contract workers in the public
and private sectors.
The Histadrut also declared labor disputes at the
Israel National Roads Company, Educational Television (Channel 23) and the Petah
Tikva Municipality on Monday, all of them in protest at the use of outside