Labor court orders rail workers to halt strike

Despite injunction temporarily ordering employees to work, service disruptions expected; court discussion of strike legality scheduled.

An aerial view of a an Israel Railways train. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An aerial view of a an Israel Railways train.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court overnight Wednesday issued an injunction ordering railway employees to immediately stop a strike they had called just hours beforehand.
A discussion of an Israel Railways petition to the court to prevent the strike was scheduled for 7:00 am on Thursday. The court ordered the rail workers to temporarily halt the strike, pending the outcome of the discussion, in order to prevent inconvenience to the public. The rail workers' union expected interruptions in train service, despite the court injunction, due to the difficulty of informing employees of the court's overnight decision.
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Rail workers announced the start of an immediate strike that saw all trains in Israel grind to a halt late Wednesday night.
The strike was announced to be open ended – until further notice, the union said.
Israel Railways said that all trains in transit reached their final destinations, but no trains left their stations following the union announcement.
The worker's announced the strike without prior notice, after nine union members were arrested during a demonstration outside of the newly appointed chairman of Israel Railways Board, Uri Yogev's home on Wednesday night. The workers claim that Yogev supports privatizing Israel Railways, a step they fear will lead to the mass firing  of rail employees.
Israel Railways CEO Yitzhak Harel said in an interview with Israel Radio on Thursday morning that their were no plans to fire employees. He accused the rail workers' union of acting as if "the Israeli public were their captives."
Last month, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz warned that Israel Railways would be closed if the safety level of trains was not raised.
Katz told the railway administration to prepare a plan to improve train safety amid recent accidents, including a collision between two trains that injured 60 people in Netanya when one of the conductors ignored a red light.
Katz said that if within four months a program improving railway safety and services, that is acceptable to all relevant parties, is not presented, train services will be closed.