The Histadrut Threatens to Close Israel’s Skies

February 27, 2012  

Israel’s powerful general labor federation, the Histadrut, on Monday threatened El Al Airlines and other Israeli carriers with a general strike over an “open skies” agreement officials recently signed with European countries.

A strike at El Al – as well as Arkia and Israir – would only be the latest in a succession of labor disputes initiated by Histadrut in recent months, which have included nurses, sanctions on Israel Railways, the Public Works Department, and television in Petach Tikvah.

The Histadrut charges that the Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Transportation signed the “open skies” agreement without negotiating with employees, and without regard to the implications that signing the agreement would have on the workers.

Union officials say if negotiations with officials do not yield “complete results” within two weeks they will begin implementing work disruptions and imposing downtime on Israel’s airlines.

“This has serious implications for the implementation agreement, could be a fatal blow to the industry, and have irreversible consequences for thousands of workers and their families,” the Histadrut said in a statement.

“No discussion on the agreement or regulating conditions under ‘open skies’ was undertaken,” the statement read. “It does not ensure Israel’s airline industry can compete fairly and equally with foreign airlines, as the defense expenditures of Israeli airlines are very high.”

According to the Histadrut’s analysts, the agreement in its current form could result in the eventual dismissal of 25,000 employees in the three airlines.

However, the Histadrut is not alone in its concern over the “open skies” agreement signed by Israel’s officials. El Al, which would be directly impacted by Hisradut’s work disruptions and downtime, is also concerned.

“I am not talking as CEO of El Al, but as an Israeli for whom Israeli aviation is critical. The open skies agreement must be based on clear definitions before the new policy is implemented,” said El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. CEO Eliezer Shkedi.

“Open skies should be a careful, cautious, sagacious, and proportionate move, but what is being presented now is liable to cause Israeli aviation to crash,” Shkedi said.

He added the an agreement should only be signed after an equitable and suitable infrastructure is built at Ben Gurion International Airport.

“Israel has only one airport with one runway, and implementing open skies under these conditions is irresponsible,” he said.

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