El Al maintenance workers threaten Dreamliner ceremony


El Al's first Boeing Dreamliner is due to land in Israel on Wednesday.

Negotiations between El Al Israel Airlines Ltd.'s (TASE: ELAL) maintenance workers' committee and the company's management collapsed last week. El Al's maintenance workers are seeking to improve their terms of employment, asserting that they have undertaken streamlining measures that are having an economic impact. Their campaign threatens to affect the arrival of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets purchased by El Al.

The first Dreamliner is scheduled to land in Israel on Wednesday. The Dreamliners are intended to gradually replace the airline's old jetliners. The arrival of the plane on Wednesday is scheduled to be a festive occasion at El Al, and the committee of maintenance workers is calling on the workers to attend the ceremony and protest there against management, according to a letter sent to the workers by the committee.

The letter states, "The maintenance workers' committee today began a protest against a callous management, which is contemptible and out of touch, and does not wish to come to terms with the workers of the maintenance division, who constantly perform extremely heavy work with scarred hands and infinite loyalty under some of the most difficult conditions in the world.

"Management's proposal and its demands from the division's workers were an extremely painful blow to all of us. The proposal is outrageous. Nevertheless, despite everything, the maintenance workers' committee continued in a number of additional meetings in the hope that something might change in management's attitude, but all our effort were in vain. It was like talking to brick wall - absolute insensitivity. There is a basic lack of understanding of what maintenance is and what its share in in the big El Al pie is. There is nothing anywhere like our people. Management is persisting in its stubbornness, and one experience after another proves again and again that they do not understand at all what we are talking about and what we want.

"Can a contented person who lives most of his life in an quiet office air-conditioned to 20 degrees, with a leather upholstered chair, understand a technician who lives on concrete in 45-degree heat in the shade, and in a closed hangar that traps the heat and the cold like a tomato greenhouse and a chicken freezer, with constant noise and soot and toxins? Apparently not. These are two different planets: one of masters and one of servants. There is a wall of indifference and absolute alienation from the hotbox. We are all summoned on Wednesday to deliver one message to the company's management: a new plane and rotten management.

"We in maintenance will not keep silent, and we will not allow you to bypass us without an arrangement concerning the maintenance department's demands, its dedication, and the special character of its work. The extraordinary dedication and contribution of the maintenance department to the success of El Al, which is so dear to all of us, is worth much more than you think. Come in your masses. This is the crucial time. There are no excuses and no releases." A message was attached to the letter calling on the workers to assemble on Wednesday and protest.

El Al's management sent an answer to its workers today warning that anyone joining the protestors "will bear responsibility for his actions, with all that that implies."

In the letter, management reminds the workers that they have signed an agreement to refrain from industrial action until August 2018, and that management and the maintenance workers' committee are conducting discussions "with the sincere intent of improving the salary terms of the division's workers, together with real streamlining measures."

El Al's management states that the actions of the workers' committee representatives, which it is urging the workers to take part in, are "illegal and not backed by the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel)."

No work dispute has been declared by the Histadrut, and the question of declaring one remains open. The workers' committee asked to the Histadrut to begin a labor dispute, but it was agreed that the employees involved would vote on the matter, and if over 50% vote in favor, a dispute will be declared. A dispute means that regular work can be disrupted, which is liable to result in flight delays.

Last February, El Al signed an agreement with its pilots' committee, following a prolonged dispute that included flight delays and cancelations. El Al's share price has plunged 19% over the past week.

El Al: An act of thugs

El Al stated, "We regret the plan to attempt to create a provocation at the ceremony for receiving the first Dreamliner, which all the company's employees have been awaiting for a long time. It appears that despite the fact that the Histadrut has not declared a labor dispute, the representatives of the maintenance workers' committee have decided to act like thugs and to threaten to disrupt the event for no reason.

"The Histadrut, El Al's management, and the representatives of the workers at El Al signed a labor agreement in June 2015 guaranteeing an absence of industrial action until August 2018, and we expect all the parties to continue observing the agreement. The agreement states that negotiations can be held on a sector basis about streamlining, and we are in the midst of businesslike talks with representatives of the maintenance workers' committee."

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on August 21, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

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