Rail strike delayed by 2 weeks to allow more talks

Contentious outsourcing agreement won't be implemented during the negotiations, in which Katz, Eini will participate.

train 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
train 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Histadrut, rail workers, Israel Railways and the Transportation Ministry reached an agreement at the Tel Aviv Labor Court to put off a rail strike by two weeks in order to allow for more negotiations between the sides. A controversial outsourcing deal signed by Israel Railways Sunday will also be delayed during the talks.
Rail workers had sought permission from the court Sunday night to strike against an agreement signed by Israel Railways to outsource maintenance of train cars.
If the sides fail to reach an agreement in the coming two weeks, the Labor Court will permit rail workers to stage a limited strike and Israel Railways will be allowed to implement its disputed outsourcing agreement.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that he viewed the agreement to hold more talks as the right move, "part of a last-ditched attempt to prevent the public from paying the price." In the coming two weeks, he added, "intensive negotiations will be held, in which the head of the Histadrut and I will participate."
Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini said of the development, "The ball is in the Transportation Ministry's [court]." The Histadrut's goal, he added, "is not to put the trains on strike but to operate them in a way that protects the workers' rights."
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]."
Ahead of the Labor Court session, Katz had warned that if railway employees continued to strike his ministry would not hesitate to shut down the train system.
"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," he told Army Radio.