The Histadrut Labor Union on Wednesday called a work dispute with the Egged Bus Company, a required step before declaring a full-blown strike, which could occur as soon as next Thursday – the day after Yom Kippur. If the union follows through on its threat, six thousand drivers and workers could walk off the job.
The problem, according to the union, is the state’s refusal to update a contract that subsidizes Egged management, money that the union claims is distributed to workers (as a cooperative, Egged is owned and managed by all its workers). The contract, signed in 2005, expired nine months ago, and as a result workers are losing money.
Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn said that the government was “acting irresponsibly and in a manner that could badly hurt Egged financially, and thus harm the public interest. The government is trying to turn Egged drivers into another form of contract workers, who do not get benefits. We will not stand by and allow this process – which will harm the safety of passengers – to take place.”
Ron Ratner, a spokesperson for Egged, said that the company “regrets that this issue has reached the point of crisis. We have been working with the Finance and Transportation Ministries on renewing the contract for the past 18 months. Unfortunately there has not been progress on this for many months. Without a long-term arrangement with the government, we are unable to sign a new collective bargaining agreement with drivers and ensure their rights and the rights of other workers.”
If the strike does take place, it will affect well over a million people, including residents of almost every city in Israel, including Yerushalayim and its suburbs, with the exception of residents of the center of the country or of places like Modiin, where Dan and other bus companies provide bus service.