A major strike planned by Egged workers has been postponed until at least after Sukkos, the Histadrut announced. The strike had been planned to commence on the day after Yom Kippur. The days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos have been dedicated to working out an agreement to prevent a strike altogether, and talks will also proceed during the coming week.
Consumer groups took credit for the delay. According to the “Transportation Our Way” group, “media pressure on the Histadrut caused it to postpone the strike until at least after the holidays.” The union, it said, was trying to push off onto the state “the blame for the poor financial management of Egged.”
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 expiring ten 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 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, Raanana, Beitar Illit 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.
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.