Short-lived rail strike ends after workers freed from jail

Workers detained after rallying against privatization; hearing on the legality of the worker strike delayed until next week.

By OREN KESSLER
May 12, 2011 17:44
1 minute read.
An aerial view of a an Israel Railways train.

An aerial view of a an Israel Railways train.. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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A half-day rail strike came to a close Thursday afternoon after members of the rail workers’ union were released from jail.

The union announced the strike without prior notice Wednesday night after the arrest of 10 union members during a demonstration outside the home of Uri Yogev, Israel Railways’ newly appointed chairman of the board.

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The employees suspect Yogev supports privatizing the national rail carrier, a move they fear will lead to a wave of employee dismissals.

A hearing on the legality of the worker strike was delayed until Monday, the Tel Aviv Labor Court said Thursday. The delay was aimed at allowing Gila Ederi, chairwoman of the railway workers’ union, to attend. Ederi was one of the rallying employees detained Wednesday.

Judge Efrat Laskar said Wednesday’s injunction forbidding railway workers to strike would remain in effect until further notice. Despite the injunction, the workers’ union prepared for interruptions in service due to the difficulty of informing employees of the court’s early-morning decision.

Rail workers had announced the start of an immediate strike that saw all trains in Israel grind to a halt late Wednesday night.

The rail carrier said all trains in transit had reached their final destinations, but that no trains had left their stations following the union’s announcement.

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Israel Railways CEO Yitzhak Harel told Israel Radio on Thursday morning that his firm had no plans to fire employees, and accused the workers’ union of treating the Israeli public as “hostages.”

Last month, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz warned that Israel Railways would be closed unless safety standards improved. The ultimatum came following a spate of accidents in recent months, including a collision between two trains that injured 60 people in Netanya.

Katz said that unless a safety plan deemed acceptable to all relevant parties was presented within four months, train services would be indefinitely halted.

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