58 train drivers protesting wages and work conditions stop service on Jerusalem's light rail only two months into its operation.
By MELANIE LIDMAN
Fifty eight Jerusalem light rail drivers unexpectedly announced a general strike on Sunday during the intermediate days of Succot, one of the busiest weeks for the capital when hundreds of thousands of tourists visit from abroad. The strike is a result of a contract disagreement over work conditions and salaries for the drivers, and comes just two months after the light rail began operating in August.Negotiations between the drivers and Connex Jerusalem, which oversees the light rail workers as part of the consortium of companies that run the light rail called CityPass, began over a year ago, around the same time the first class of drivers started to work testing the train.RELATED:Social Justice movement calls for nationwide strikeMinister orders urgent discussion following train failuresDrivers threatened to strike last May, before the light rail was open to the public, over claims that Connex was discriminating against drivers who joined the nascent driver’s union. The strike never materialized, and negotiations have been ongoing.A special shuttle bus that roughly shadows the path of the light rail is being operated to help passengers who would normally take the light rail. Egged also increased intra-city bus service in the capital.Yossi Hazan, the head of the driver’s committee, said that the train drivers make NIS 1,000 less per month than Egged drivers. Additionally, they work more than 11 hours per day when the average daily hours for light rail drivers around the world is eight hours, because of the high level of concentration needed and the monotony of the job.Jpost.com staff contributed to this report