Light rail back on track as striking drivers reach accord

Drivers demanded salary on par with bus drivers; strike lasted 30 hours during one of Jerusalem's busiest times of the year.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
October 17, 2011 17:51
2 minute read.
Jerusalem light rail with Egged bus

Jerusalem light rail with Egged bus 311. (photo credit: Abir Sultan)

 
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The light rail was set to resume operations late Monday afternoon after a 30 hour strike by light rail drivers froze service during the intermediate days of Succot, one of the busiest times in Jerusalem.

The municipality reported that just after filing an appeal with the Jerusalem Local Labor Court to force the drivers back to work, the drivers came to an agreement with Connex Israel, the company that operates the trains.

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The drivers demanded better salaries on par with city bus drivers.

Sunday evening, the municipality, which alongside train officials was surprised by the sudden strike, appealed to the Jerusalem Local Labor Court to force the drivers back to work.

Buses were increased and a free shuttle was operating along the light rail tracks.

The strike, a result of a contract disagreement over work conditions and salaries for the drivers, started during the intermediate days of Succot, one of the busiest weeks for the capital when hundreds of thousands of tourists visit from abroad. On Monday, the Old City closed to private cars due to the large number of visitors, providing free shuttles from area parking lots.

Negotiations between the drivers and Connex Jerusalem, which oversees the light rail workers as part of the consortium of companies that run the light rail called CityPass, began over a year ago, around the same time the first class of drivers started to work testing the train.



Yossi Hazan, the head of the drivers’ committee, said that the train operators make NIS 1,000 less per month than Egged drivers. Additionally, they work up to 11 hours per day, while the average daily hours for light rail drivers around the world is eight hours, because of the high level of concentration and monotony associated with the job.

Previously, light rail drivers threatened to strike last May, before the light rail was open to the public, over claims that Connex was discriminating against drivers who joined the nascent drivers’ union. The strike never materialized, and negotiations have been ongoing.

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