In an initial protest against their employment conditions, Israir's flight attendants declared a labor dispute over the weekend against the management of the company, demanding a collective employment contract in place of the current individual agreement on which they are now signed. The Histadrut will mediate between the workers and the management. "The cabin attendants will not be satisfied with a contract that is worth less than the collective agreement the El Al air workers achieved and as the Arkia workers are about to sign," Raz Bahar, an Israir stewardess and the chairwoman of the workers' committee, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Israir flight attendants, who are currently paid only for the hours they spend in the air and not those they spend preparing and cleaning the plane before and after flights, are demanding that the airline pay them for the hours spent both in the air and on the ground, as well as increase salaries above the current rates, many of which are less than minimum wage. Additionally, the flight attendants have stipulated that the amount of time they are given to rest during, before and after long flights be substantially increased; they also demanded that the airline install reclining seats, similar to those on most other airlines, for crew members to rest in during international flights. "Our current contract as it exists does not define working hours or resting hours and it leads to situations where we are forced to work for 16 straight hours, given a four-hour break and then forced to work another transatlantic flight back to Israel," the workers' committee said. The employees are also demanding that the company pay for their mandatory six-week, NIS 1,750, training program, a clause that El Al flight attendants have had added to their contract. If no agreement is reached within 14 days, warned the Israir workers' committee, further steps, including a strike, would be taken. Israir management, however, is refusing to negotiate with the Histadrut, repeatedly saying that it will only conduct negotiations with representatives of the workers' committee. Despite the front presented by Israir management, the Histadrut remains confident that a solution can be found. "We are taking the necessary steps now to work out the dispute and to arrive at an agreement," said Dafna Cohen, deputy spokeswoman of the Histadrut. In its official response, Israir claimed that it has always maintained good relations with its workers and hopes to resolve the situation quickly. "Israir employs 600 workers with whom it has maintained good working relations over the last number of years, based on mutual cooperation between the management and the workers," the company said. "We are willing to meet immediately and negotiate their working conditions toward the beginning of a new working year." The airline, owned by businessman Nochi Dankner, flies to more than 40 destinations in Europe, the US and Asia in addition to the local flights it operates between Tel Aviv and Eilat.