J’lem light rail suspends evening service

Ongoing dispute between the train drivers and the systems operator over pay and working conditions puts service on hold.

Light rail (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Light rail
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The capital’s light rail suspended services Wednesday at 6 p.m. due to an ongoing dispute between the train drivers and the systems operator over pay and working conditions.
The CityPass consortium, which owns the light rail told The Jerusalem Post that despite the resignation of “a number of drivers” they will be operating the light rail from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On Monday, 20 light rail drivers submitted their two-weeks’ notice of resignation because of the failure to reach an agreement on improved working conditions with Connex, the light rail operator.
By Wednesday, a total of 28 drivers had resigned but Connex management decided to accept only the resignations of the four members of the light rail workers committee and another three drivers.
In response, the rest of the drivers decided they would not turn up for work on Thursday unless the drivers whose resignations were accepted were reinstated.
Yossi Hazan, chairman of the light rail workers committee, told the Post that Connex accepted the resignation of the drivers on the committee as a ploy to circumvent their attempts to gain improved pay and a collective agreement for all light rail drivers.
“This work is very complicated, there’s a lot of responsibility and it’s also dangerous,” said Hazan. “We are demanding pay that is fitting for the job, proper pensions and other basic rights.”
According to the committee, light rail drivers get paid NIS 31 an hour, whereas Egged bus drivers receive NIS 37 an hour and have to work fewer hours at what they say is an easier job.
The deputy chairman of the committee, Yair Dahan, apologized to the public for the cancelation of services but said they were left with no choice because the negotiations had not made any progress.
According to sources within Connex, the seven drivers whose resignations were accepted had expressed opposition to a proposed deal between Connex and the Histadrut labor federation to solve the dispute, while the remaining drivers were willing to accept it. In the end, they decided not to continue working due to concerns about the reaction of the committee.
Connex also stated they had submitted a complaint to the police against the drivers whose resignations had been accepted, claiming they had threatened the other drivers who had shown up to work.
“This is a lie,” said Hazan. “No one has threatened anyone. Maybe there was some shouting or swearing but no one was threatened, whatsoever.”
A Connex spokesman said negotiations between the Histadrut – which is representing the drivers – and the rail operator were at an advanced stage and close to being finalized.
Said Hazan, “I’ve heard ‘close’ for half a year now, but no one listens to us in these negotiations.
We are waiting now and we expect the government and the Jerusalem Municipality to intervene.
“If they care about this project, which has after all cost them over a billion shekels, then they need to get involved in the negotiations.”