Israeli airlines to strike over 'Open Skies' deal

Unions at El Al, Arkia, and Israir will ground all flights on Sunday unless cabinet freezes approval of EU "Open Skies Agreement."

El Al airplanes sit on the runway 370 (R) (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
El Al airplanes sit on the runway 370 (R)
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
The workers' committees at Israel's three carriers El Al, Arkia, and Israir decided Sunday at a crisis meeting to declare a strike beginning Sunday, unless the government freezes its intention to approve the "Open Skies Agreement" at Sunday's cabinet meeting, and open talks with the carriers' representatives on the matter.
El Al workers' committee chairman Asher Edry told Globes that the committees had taken the joint decision to ground all flights beginning Sunday, unless the government opens negotiations with them. "We demand that all the promises made to us before the agreement was signed, i.e. the issuing of slots at key European airports, code-sharing with foreign airlines, which have been blocked, and so forth, be implemented in full. Otherwise, we will shut down aviation."
The cabinet is set to approve the Open Skies Agreement with the EU at Sunday's meeting. Upon learning of the government's intention, the workers' committees of El Al, Arkia, and Israir met under the aegis of the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) to draw up plans for preventative action and protests.
Histadrut Transport Workers Union chairman Avi Edry, who convened the airlines' workers committees, said, "The meeting was called to draw up actions against the unilateral decisions by the government to implement the Open Skies Agreement in its present format." He reiterated that the airlines' unions and managements have opposed the Open Skies Agreement, saying, "The agreement in its present form will destroy Israeli aviation and cost tens of thousands of jobs in the industry without protecting Israeli aviation and will make Israeli airlines hostages paying for passenger security, landing rights at key airports, and so on."
El Al CEO Elyezer Shkedy has been leading the fight against the agreement. In a recent notice to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), El Al said that the agreement would result in greater competition in the aviation industry and harm the company's business.
In July 2012, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz announced that the Open Skies Agreement agreement with the EU had been initialed, after more than three years of negotiations.