Following reports that Arkia Airlines Ltd. is planning to lay off 250 out of its 650 employees after the closure of Tel Aviv's Sde Dov Airport, the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) has declared a labor dispute at the carrier. Histadrut chairman Arnon Ben-David, who opposed the closing down of Sde Dov, with the agreement of Transportation Workers Union chairman Avi Edri, stated that the reason for declaring the dispute was "The draconic and unilateral intention by Arkia's management and owners to fire hundreds of workers following the closure of Sde Dov, in breach of an agreement signed with the Histadrut, and to put all of the company's workers at Sde Dov on one week's involuntary vacation. Passengers should take into account that disruptions of the flight timetable are possible."
Avi Nakash, one of Arkia's controlling shareholders, told "Yediot Ahronot" that layoffs and cutting back Arkia's flights to Eilat were unavoidable.
"We regret that Arkia's owners and CEO are beginning with an attack on the company's human capital and workers, who brought the airline to unprecedented achievements through their love for and dedication to their workplace. It is unfortunate that instead of make proper preparations and jointly considering with the workers how to survive the crisis, Arkia prefers to cast them aside and throw the entire company into chaos. The Histadrut will stand firm as a rock behind Arkia's dedicated workers, and will not allow those concerned to treat them as hostages. Arkia's management must withdraw its plans, respect the workers, and strengthen them, instead of doing the opposite," the Histadrut announced. The workers will hold an informational assembly tomorrow at all of the company's sites in Israel, which could disrupt Arkia's timetables.
Yesterday's closure of Sde Dov came as no surprise to Arkia. Despite protests and attempts to reverse the decision, it would have been a surprise had the prime minister reversed the decision taken a year ago to close Sde Dov on July 1. Arkia, nevertheless, failed to prepare for the closure. In a visit to Sde Dov a day before it was closed down, Arkia workers, including air and ground stewards, complained that no one was talking to them, and that they had no idea what would happen to them the next day. There was a spontaneous move by Arkia workers to disrupt flights at the airport on its last day in protest about the uncertainty, but it came to nothing.
"Even though the employment security of Arkia's workers is ensured by a collective agreement signed by the parties in 2013, with specific mention of the possibility that activity at Sde Dov would be terminated, the company is planning to unilaterally fire hundreds of workers without consulting their representatives, as required. In addition to the grounds for the dispute, the Histadrut calls on Arkia's management to fulfill its legal obligation, halt the measures that contravene the provisions of the collective agreement, and act in cooperation with the Histadrut and Arkia workers' committee to consider alternatives that will make it unnecessary to fire workers, and to reach a consensual arrangement in the matter," the Histadrut states.
"To the astonishment of the workers' representatives, it was learned this morning that Arkia CEO Nir Dagan did not plan to transfer the company's workers employed at Sde Dov to Ben Gurion Airport, and that he had made no preparations for Arkia's work on the premises of Ben Gurion Airport," the Histadrut added.
"We were surprised to discover through the media the plan to fire a considerable number of workers, but we do not intend for one minute to allow management to refrain from respecting the existing collective agreement on transferring the workers from Sde Dov to Ben Gurion Airport. There is no reason for these dedicated and professional workers to end their work at Arkia. We will fight against the decision with all the means available to us in order to prevent this wretched measure," Arkia national workers' committee chairperson Aliza Balaish said.
Arkia's management said in response, "At a time of major changes in inland aviation, including the closing down of an airport as important as Sde Dov, reorganization is necessary and natural. Israel is not a cheap place to live in and do business. There are many areas in which the costs of Israeli airlines are much higher than those of their overseas competitors. It is therefore our duty to be efficient and provide quality service at a competitive price.
"Arkia will do everything necessary to succeed in this task. We are convinced that Arkia's workers, who are also partners in the company, will be partners in the streamlining process."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 2, 2019
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