Histadrut declares labor dispute at Pelephone

This is the first-ever labor dispute declared at a mobile carrier.

The Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) today declared a labor dispute at Pelephone Communications Ltd., setting in motion the 14-day cooling-off period before a strike can be declared at the mobile carrier. The Histadrut approved the labor dispute at the request of Pelephone's temporary employee action committee. This is the first-ever labor dispute declared at a mobile carrier.

The importance that the Histadrut attaches to the announcement is seen in its timing: the union did not wait for the formal convening of Pelephone's workers committee, but approved the labor dispute via a series of phone calls with the committee members.

Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini has already talked about the support he is giving Pelephone's employees. Pelephone has said in response, "The Histadrut will not leave the employees alone until the signing ceremony on the first collective labor contract."

The announcement of the labor dispute will reportedly further increase the pressure on Pelephone chairman Shaul Elovich, who controls the company through Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (TASE: BEZQ), and will bring about a rapid settlement of the dispute over the company's union representation. Pelephone claims that the Histadrut has not signed up enough employees to unionize the company by law.

The same sources believe that even if Pelephone withstands the pressure and refuses to negotiate on a labor contract, it will probably file a motion with the labor court for an injunction against a strike. Such a motion will ensure a fast-track legal decision about the unionization. Without the declaration of the labor dispute, petitioning the courts would have resulted in a lengthy legal process.

Pelephone has always argued that the unionization of the carrier would harm its ability to deal with the intense competition in the mobile market. "We're no fighting our workers. Our enemy is HOT Mobile Ltd. and Golan Telecom Ltd.," management told "Globes" on August 30, after learning that hundreds of employees had joined the Histadrut.

Pelephone's management has not yet responded to today's report.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 26, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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