Malcha train station empty 390 .
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The possibility of another train strike remains, after two weeks of negotiations
over the future of Israel Railways ended with a war of words between
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman
Katz announced the creation Monday of three new subsidiary
companies to the independent government-owned corporation – dealing with
maintenance, real estate and cargo – which he said would divide work among them.
Eini immediately rejected the move as “foolish” and “irresponsible.”
announcement came one day after the Israel Railways Workers Committee rejected a
government offer to transfer ticket sellers from contract work into direct
employment, increase wages by 25 percent, and deliver additional grants of NIS
40,000 to each employee.
The Tel Aviv Labor Court placed a two-week
injunction on a rail strike February 20, ordering rail workers, the Histadrut,
the Transportation Ministry and Israel Railways to return to negotiations over
Israel Railways’ disputed outsourcing deal with Canadian company Bombardier
As no agreement was reached in the allotted period, rail
workers are now able to stage a limited strike and Israel Railways is permitted
to go ahead with the Bombardier deal.
Katz said at a press conference
Monday that Israel Railways would implement the deal immediately, and outlined
the plan for the three subsidiaries – which will be established with help from
the private sector while Israel Railways maintains 51% of ownership.
transportation minister praised Eini for his cooperation in negotiations, and
blamed Israel Railways Workers Committee chairwoman Gila Edrai for vetoing every
proposal made during the two weeks of negotiations.
“If the workers
decide to strike this time as well, I will instruct the closure and recreation
of the company so that there will not be a situation of a small minority holding
the wider public hostage,” he added.
But Eini rejected Katz’s version of
events, saying in a statement to the press later Monday that although progress
had been made during the negotiations, he himself had never agreed to any of the
Accusing Katz of trying to tempt the railway
workers into launching another strike that would hurt their public credibility,
Eini said, “The Histadrut does not intend to fall for Katz’s trap, but rather to
act responsibly for the good of train passengers and the railway
workers.”Joanna Paraszczuk, Oren Kessler and Jerusalem Post staff
contributed to this report.
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