As of Thursday, striking road test examiners have returned to work, after a dramatic decision Wednesday night by the Tel Aviv Labor Court ordering the ten week old strike to be suspended. Also suspended are any actions by the government to privatize driving tests. The three month injunction against the strike and the government’s action is designed to get both sides talking, the court said.
In its decision, the court said that while the Transport Ministry had the right to make changes in its testing policy, it needed to do so in a manner that was not harmful to the public. That was not the case here, the court said; over the past ten weeks, some 50,000 tests have been canceled, creating a huge backlog that will take months to recover from. Along with the inconvenience, the strike has caused a shortage of drivers of commercial vehicles, as new drivers cannot get their licenses to replace drivers who are retiring at bus and trucking companies. The workers will be putting in overtime in order to help clear the backlog, the Ministry said.
The examiners, who work for the Transport Ministry, went on strike March 20, demanding that the government halt its plan to outsource the tests to private driving school teachers. According to government figures, at least 16 private entities have been or will bid on the contract to manage the drivers’ tests in the tender which closes June 15. Two of those will be chosen to operate the testing service. The court decision will now postpone the opening of the tender. The Transport Ministry said that it would appeal the decision in order to be allowed to continue with the tender process.
On Tuesday, Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said he had a solution to the strike – the issuance of temporary licenses by driving school instructors, to be used until the reform in testing is enacted, when drivers will take the actual road test. The temporary licenses will allow drivers to get behind the wheel accompanied by a veteran adult driver. The license will be valid for six months, or until tests are given by authorized driving schools, as the reform plan calls for. Either way, said Katz, the reform would go into effect, and young drivers “will not be held hostage by the examiners.”
Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn praised the court’s decision, saying that the union “would continue to act responsibly for the benefit of Israelis, as well as protect the rights of workers with determination.”