As of Monday, a major strike planned by 6,500 Egged workers is still set to take place. The strike could take place as soon as the day after Yom Kippur, and would affect 1.2 million Israelis who depend on the buses to get around.
“The public needs to prepare for traffic jams the likes of which have never been seen before,” Egged spokesperson Ron Ratner said. “This will be the most chaotic traffic situation in the past 20 years if the Histadrut goes through with its strike. I do not want to imagine what might happen when 1.2 million Israelis cannot get to where they have to go.”
Some 6,500 Egged employees and cooperative partners — virtually the entire staff of drivers, maintenance workers and administrative workers — will walk off the job. Egged said that there was no way the company could find replacements for drivers.
The reason for the strike is complicated and involves not just workers’ rights, but government assistance to Egged. The bus company claims that without a renewal of the government subsidy to the firm — with the former agreement having expired 10 months ago — the company may not be able to pay salaries of drivers as soon as this month.
According to the Finance Ministry, the fault for the crisis is completely with Egged. The company has been losing lines over the past two decades, as competing firms outbid Egged for lines in many cities, such as Modi’in, Ra’anana, Beitar Ilit and other places. Currently, Egged controls 45 percent of Israel’s bus traffic, down by more than a third over the past 20 years, but the company has not cut its staff by that amount. According to the ministry, Egged has refused to sign the prorated subsidy agreement offered it, demanding more per passenger than it had been receiving previously.
Among the casualties of the lack of cash in the company was the fact that workers did not get a gift for Rosh Hashanah, as is customary in many firms in Israel.
Ratner 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 places like Modi’in, where Dan and other bus companies provide bus service.