Strike at airport 311 .
(photo credit: Ben Spier)
The Ben Gurion Airport employees' strike ended on Monday after nine hours of disruption.
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The workers union came to an agreement with Treasury and Transportation Ministry representatives to secure employee pensions.
Israel Airports Authority will transfer the pension money to a trust fund within 60 days as part of the agreement.
"I'm happy we could secure the pension funds for the workers and retirees," a senior Histadrut labor federation official stated. "It's a shame that we had to strike and that the government did not resolve the matter sooner, the official continued.
According to the Histadrut all the workers' demands were met in full.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said earlier on Monday that the strike, coming at the height of Israel's best ever tourism
year, had the potential to severely harm the country's tourism industry, costing
millions of shekels a day. The comments came in a letter Misezhnikov
wrote to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
asked Steinitz to enter into intensive, fair and transparent
negotiations with the Airports Authority workers regarding their pension
rights, as anchored in government obligations in past years, in order
to bring an end to the strike at the country’s national airport.
“The ramifications of a strike precisely now on incoming tourism to Israel will be very significant both in the short term, causing suffering to tourists and passengers who will have to wait for hours before entering or leaving Israel, and in the long term, harming Israel’s image as a welcoming, high-quality tourism country," added Misezhnikov.
The Tourism Minister instructed the Israel Government Tourist Office at the airport to increase its activities in order to offer assistance to tourists at Ben Gurion.
Ben Gurion Airport employees decided to unload luggage from all of the
airplanes that landed on Monday despite the continuing general strike.
In addition, airplanes that were scheduled to fly to Uman in Ukraine to
bring back Breslav Hassidim pilgrims will be allowed to depart.
The sides are continuing to negotiate in the hopes of reaching a deal on
the issue of the workers' pensions.
Negotiations between representatives of Ben Gurion Airport employees and
management failed earlier on Monday prompting airport workers to announce the work stoppage.
Authority workers are requesting that management give them assurances
that money saved for their pension funds will not be used for any other
Hundreds of Breslav Hassidim returning to Israel from Ukraine caused
upheaval at the airport when they could not get their luggage
because of the strike .
The Hassidim, returning from a pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Breslav in the Ukranian city of Uman, yelled, played drums and sang. Some of them caused damage to the baggage claim conveyor belt.
Police were called to the scene, but no arrests were reported. Their luggage was eventually unloaded from the planes.
The airport employees originally planned to strike on Thursday
, but were persuaded by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz not to strike in order to prevent the delay of Israelis coming home for Rosh Hashana.
Negotiations between the two sides began on Sunday and continued on
Monday morning. The talks stalled at approximately 9 a.m., and the
workers immediately began their strike.
Airplanes en route to Israel were not allowed to land at the airport, but
baggage was unloaded from the planes while the strike
continued. It was originally planned that no planes would depart Ben Gurion Airport during the work
Ben Gurion Employees' Committee chairman Pinchas Edan on Monday stated
that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is the only one capable of
solving the problem, Israel Radio reported.
“We will not stand by and see workers’ money put at risk," Edan said
prior to the strike. "We have been trying to reach an agreement for two
years, but the authority’s management keeps on dragging its feet and
jeopardizing the workers’ pension funds,” he added.
“We demand that the issue of the pensions be resolved and that their
money be protected and earmarked exclusively for the purpose of pension
payments and will do everything in our power to assure it."
Ron Friedman contributed to this