Railway strike ends after six hours

Trains resume operation after union reps negotiate with management.

israel train 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
israel train 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After negotiations between union representatives and Israel Railways management reached a temporary understanding, trains were set to resume their operations. According to Army Radio, further negotiations would take place next week. The Israel Railways union called a one-day "warning strike" throughout the country for Friday, after months of talks over new wage agreements between workers and the management failed. The Egged bus company said it would operate more buses along the train routes to meet demand. "Following months of negotiations without success over organizational changes, which are also delaying new wage agreements, we see no other choice than to launch a one-day 'warning strike' on Friday," Micha Chayun, chairman of the Israel Railways union, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. The last wage agreements expired at the end of 2005. "We don't want to punish or hurt the public and therefore we chose Friday, which is a quieter working day." The Israel Railways workers are also protesting planned lay-offs as part of the railway privatization process. Meanwhile, the Histadrut is to convene talks on Sunday morning with public sector unions and committees to consider a possible general strike action next week, which would affect government offices, local municipalities, ports and other public services. "About 40 local authorities and religious councils are still depriving their employees of wages and pension payments despite three months of hearings at the National Labor Court between the labor federation, and the Finance and Interior Ministries," said the Histadrut spokesperson. "The National Labor Court has not been able to find a viable solution to the problem of postponed salary payments for municipal workers and thus we are considering union action." Furthermore, university students groups, with support from the lecturers' union, announced Thursday that they will go on strike on Sunday, the day the academic year's second semester is due to begin. The students are protesting the composition of the Shochat Committee, which is meant to examine the future of higher education. Lecturers and student groups are not represented on the committee, which the student groups regard as a rubber-stamp for the Finance Ministry plan to "privatize" higher education. On Thursday, high schools across the country were closed for a Secondary School Teachers Organization protest at untenably "drawn out" negotiations over wage agreements with the Finance and Education Ministries. Teachers unions have been threatening for months to completely shut down the educational system if the Finance Ministry remains steadfast in its refusal to negotiate a collective salary agreement for teachers. As of Thursday evening, the Secondary School Teachers Organization had not announced further strike action. Also on Thursday evening, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Israel Railways had urged the railway workers and the Histadrut Labor Federation to call off the strike. "Every issue in dispute can be solved by talking," said Mofaz. Israel Railways said that intensive negotiations with the railway workers and the Histadrut were continuing. "But until now, the sides have not come to an understanding, and the workers and the union did not respond to our request to cancel the strike action," Israel Railways said in a statement. "We can not explain the stubbornness of the workers other than being influenced by an array of work disputes in the economy." This was an apparent reference to recent strikes at the ports and the Israel Electric Corporation.