Airlines Workers Strike Clouds ‘Open Skies’


Workers at Israel’s airports will strike on Sunday if the government approves the “Open Skies Agreement” at that morning’s Cabinet meeting.

The ultimatum was issued by the workers’ committees of Israel’s three carriers El Al, Arkia and Israir, over what they view as a move that would imperil the national industry and thousands of jobs.

El Al workers’ committee chairman Asher Edry told Globes that the committees had made the joint decision to ground all flights beginning Sunday unless the government opens negotiations with them.

“We demand that all the promises made to us before the agreement was signed — i.e., the issuing of slots at key European airports, code-sharing with foreign airlines, which have been blocked, and so forth — be implemented in full. Otherwise, we will shut down aviation.”

Histadrut Transport Workers Union chairman Avi Edry, who convened the workers’ meeting, said, “The meeting was called to draw up actions against the unilateral decisions by the government to implement the Open Skies Agreement in its present format.”

He said that the airlines’ unions and managements have opposed the Open Skies Agreement. “The agreement in its present form will destroy Israeli aviation and cost tens of thousands of jobs in the industry without protecting Israeli aviation, and will make Israeli airlines hostages paying for passenger security, landing rights at key airports, and so on.”

El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedy, who has been in the forefront of opposition to the agreement, told the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange recently that the agreement would cause more competition in the aviation industry and harm El Al’s business.

In July 2012, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz announced that the Open Skies Agreement with the EU had been initialed, after more than three years of negotiations.

The Open Skies Agreement calls for seven new flights per week to a gradually increasing number of European destinations each year, and more flights to hub cities.

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