Sabbath strike at Ben-Gurion airport is called off at the last moment

A PLANE at Ben-Gurion International Airport. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A PLANE at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Thousands of travelers can proceed with their plans as scheduled this weekend after workers at Ben-Gurion International Airport called off a planned strike.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon intervened to broker an agreement on Thursday evening after meeting with the Israel Airports Authority workers’ committee and Histadrut labor federation.
Employees had planned to walk out in protest of an Interior Ministry decision to allow local municipalities to charge the airport property taxes.
“I want to prevent the unnecessary suffering of passengers flying over the weekend and the hit to the economy,” Kahlon, who is head of the center-right Kulanu party, said in a statement.
Details of the agreement were not available, and it was unclear whether the government backtracked on its property-taxes motion.
The strike, which was scheduled for Friday evening to Saturday night, would have grounded European planes while permitting trans-Atlantic flights to land. Some 25,500 passengers on 160 flights were scheduled to depart and land during that time frame.
According to Ynet, some airlines – including Royal Jordanian and Air Sinai – had canceled flights in anticipation of the strike. It was unclear whether they would be rescheduled.
More than 90% of all Israel’s incoming and outgoing passengers transit through the airport, so any unexpected closures reverberate throughout the Jewish state.
A strike would have affected tourist operators and business travel. Losses can tally in the millions of shekels from even a short, 24-hour closure.
Employees threatened to strike amid fears that municipal property taxes levied on the airport would significantly cut revenue and lead to wage cuts or layoffs. According to TheMarker, the average airport employee earns approximately NIS 26,100 monthly, or about 2.5 times the average national wage.
Ben-Gurion operates 364 days a year, officially closed only on Yom Kippur.
The airport has previously been shuttered for short strikes, however, as well as during conflict. During the 2014 Gaza war, the American Federal Aviation Administration suspended flights to Israel, triggering a two-day de facto international flight ban.
In 2016, 17.5 million passengers passed through the airport, an 11% increase from the previous year.