Labor Court hears rail workers request to strike

Israel Railways signs agreement to outsource maintenance of train cars; labor court to discuss strike request.

train 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
train 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Regional Labor Court in Tel Aviv Monday morning was discussing a request filed by the railway employees board and the Histadrut Labor Federation to allow them to begin a strike immediately over Israel Railways's decision to outsource maintenance services to a foreign company. Dozens of rail workers were demonstrating outside the court.
On Sunday, Israel Railways signed an agreement with Canadian company Bombardier Transportation to provide maintenance for 130 train cars.
Last week, train workers began a strike over the issue, but the National Labor Court issued an injunction against the action.
Following the signing of the deal on Sunday, the railway employees board stated that Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz had "declared war not only on railway workers, but against all organized labor." The board called on the National Labor Court to cancel the maintenance agreement with Bombardier.
"We will continue the struggle against the introduction of contract workers with all available means," the Histadrut said in a statement Monday morning. "We will not be deterred by the attempt force the workers' hand with heavy-handed [tactics]."
Katz warned on Monday that if railway employees continued to strike his ministry would not hesitate to shut down the train system.
In an interview with Army Radio, Katz explained that the strike is an attempt by the railway employees board to take over Israel Railways and prevent the company from operating effectively.
"I don't want to shut down the train system," the minister said. "But if this turns into a series of wild strikes and creates a situation in which the system can't function properly, we won't hesitate to close it and reopen it at a later time."
Histadrut Labor Federation chairman Ofer Eini is not acting responsibly, Katz added. "I am asking him to not let the board affect passengers with its fight. We need to sit and discuss the conditions, that's the Histadrut's duty."
In an interview with Channel One on Sunday, Katz clarified that the number of train cars operating in the country would soon be doubled, and therefore outsourcing maintenance work was unavoidable. He vowed not to fire a single railway worker in the next twenty years and to raise the train employees' salaries by 20 percent.