The Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) has declared a labor dispute in the aviation industry. The background to the dispute is the intention of the airlines, which have already laid off thousands of workers and put many on unpaid leave, to carry out further mass layoffs.
The dispute applies to workers at El Al and Arkia, to pilots at Israir, and to employees of the Israel Airports Authority. The declaration means that the Histadrut can institute sanctions within two weeks, which will mean disruption to flights.
The airlines have fallen into a severe crisis because of the current wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and have asked the state to compensate them, arguing that the damage that they are sustaining is caused by the imposition of the severe restrictions on air travel currently in force. In order to achieve efficiencies, which the Ministry of Finance is also demanding, they plan to lay off more employees, to extend the period of unpaid leave for many other employees, and to change workers' employment terms.
The Histadrut says that it is concerned that workers' training and licenses will be harmed, that at some airlines whole departments will be closed and the work will be outsourced, and that the managements of the airlines have failed to take steps to find business solutions to save the companies.
The airlines have been in crisis since March 2020, and thousands of workers have been put on unpaid leave. The Histadrut stresses further problems. For example, many people employed in the aviation industry are obliged to undergo regular training, refresher courses, and tests. This includes pilots, flight service managers, cabin crew, engineers, electricians, mechanics, and aircraft towing operators. An extended period of unpaid leave could harm the fitness and capabilities of some of these employees, and this problem has not been adequately addressed. Another fear is that departments will be closed and the work outsourced.
Histadrut chairperson Arnon Bar-David said, "I'm dealing with the crisis among aviation industry employees from morning till night. Unfortunately, there are those who fail to recognize the importance of this industry not just to employment in the Israeli economy but also to the State of Israel in many other respects. When the crisis broke out, the Histadrut rallied round to rescue the aviation industry and rehabilitate it, through unprecedented recovery and efficiency agreements that we signed with the companies, and financial aid that we extended to them. This does not mean that the way is open to mass layoffs and curtailment of employee rights whenever they see fit, as a quick and easy solution for the companies. I won't allow that."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 24, 2021
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