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israel railways 311POLICE AND RESCUE workers survey the scen.(Photo by: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Eini to meet with train management as strike looms
By OREN KESSLER, JPOST.COM STAFF
03/26/2012
Histadrut chief demands that Israel Railways reverse recent firings and suspensions as a precondition to negotiations.
Histadrut labor federation chair Ofer Eini was expected to meet with the CEO of Israel Railways on Monday evening to determine if Tuesday's scheduled train strike can be averted. CEO Boaz Zafrir will first meet with other labor officials, but Eini and Israel Railways chair Uri Yogev plan to join the meeting once in progress.

The meeting follows an emergency union meeting Sunday night in which rail workers threatened to begin striking on Tuesday if no progress in negotiations is made.

Israel Railways on Sunday suspended the chairman of its employee board for three months with a warning for making threats against company executives. The authorities suspended six other workers under similar conditions and fired two others. Employee board chairman Gila Edrei left the room midway through Sunday's hearing to protest the decision.

Eini has said that train management must reverse all of its recent firings and suspensions as a precondition to the labor union returning to the negotiating table over the broader and ongoing labor dispute. If management does not reverse itself, Eini said that train workers will move forward with the strike on Tuesday.

Speaking to Army Radio on Monday morning, Edrei called the suspensions and firings of transportation workers a provocation. "They took all the rail worker leaders and suspended them. We can't continue this way. In my opinion, [Transportation] Minister [Yisrael] Katz initiated this provocation in order to bring the situation to the point of crisis so that he can create division among the workers," she said.

She added that the "committee heads are elected representatives of the rail workers. If they suspend us, we have a right to strike."

The national rail carrier has been embroiled in an ongoing labor dispute that has led to delays in train arrivals as well as a number of strikes. This weekend train employees announced they would stop checking passengers' tickets indefinitely to protest a previous decision by the company's management to outsource maintenance services to a foreign contractor.

On Monday morning, the Histadrut chair also declared a work dispute, threatening to stage a wider strike for transportation workers. The move will enable workers to strike within two weeks, potentially effecting a work stoppage at Ben Gurion Airport, port authorities, and bus lines Dan and Egged.
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