Judge orders ‘sick’ light rail drivers back to work after train service halted

Mass absenteeism occurs amid heated salary negotiations with CityPass

Jerusalem light rail (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem light rail
A Jerusalem District Labor Court judge ordered light rail drivers who staged a de facto strike on Tuesday by claiming to be ill amid heated salary negotiations to return to work immediately.
Disruptions on the light rail substantially escalated Tuesday, after a third of the drivers called in sick, halting nearly all train service, Globes reported.
“It would be odd to say that all the drivers being sick at the same time was a coincidence,” Judge Sarah Shdeour said in her ruling.
CityPass, which manages the rail service, contended that the workers were illegally trying to improve their employment terms in contravention of a decision made last month by the Labor Court.
“Unfortunately, the Histadrut does not control the drivers’ representatives, and within a short time, the ‘disruptions’ became an unrestrained, wildcat general-strike,” CityPass said in a statement.
“The damage caused to the passengers is insufferable, and the timing, during the intermediate days of the Succot holiday, is outrageous, and no coincidence.”
CityPass management petitioned the court to force the drivers to return to work and prevent service shortages during the holiday.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Ministry announced on Tuesday that it would increase the number of buses on the light rail’s routes.
Egged began stepping up its service on lines 20, 21, 23, 27, and 29, which will be extended to the Central Bus Station, instead of only to Mt. Herzl, Globes reported.
Additionally, regular bus lines are operating from Pisgat Ze’ev and Ammunition Hill toward the city center.
“It is CityPass’s responsibility to find out why the workers are not coming to work,” said Histadrut’s Jerusalem chairman Danny Bonfil.
“We gave the workers’ committee a clear order not to strike. When I want to go on strike, even if it is a wildcat strike, I go on strike, but that is not the case here.”
In a statement, CityPass said the strike was little more than a money grab.
“Negotiations took place on Thursday in which a proposal was made to the workers’ committee to improve their salaries, and they rejected it out of hand, even though their pay is among the highest in the public transportation sector,” CityPass said.
“You would have to be very naive to think that they all suddenly became sick simultaneously. What we have here is a clear attempt by the workers to wreck the negotiations and go on strike without a valid labor dispute.”
“As of now,” the statement continued, “there are no trains in Jerusalem at all, and the passengers’ daily life is being significantly and needlessly disrupted.”
It was unclear as of Tuesday evening when service would return to normal.