El Al Workers Prepare to Call General Strike

An El Al plane at Ben Gurion Airport. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
An El Al plane at Ben Gurion Airport. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

El Al employees are likely to go on strike in the coming weeks, Channel Two reported Motzoei Shabbos. Employees will take a vote this week on declaring a labor dispute, the first step in declaring an official strike.

The main issue is El Al’s policy of off-loading scheduled flights to other carriers. El Al management has consistently canceled flights in recent months and rescheduled them on other carriers, where pay and maintenance costs are much lower. By doing this, management was able to avoid paying overtime and extra costs to El Al workers, whose contracts provide them with extra pay and benefits for overtime.

The union representing workers has framed the issue as a matter of safety and convenience, claiming that passengers are at risk because of lower safety standards on other carriers, and that schedule changes cause many delays for passengers. In a statement, the union representing workers said that the off-loading of flights “is being done by management for strictly economic reasons, and comes at the expense of passengers, who paid full price and expected to fly El Al with Israeli staff, technicians, engineers and pilots. Israel’s national carrier has turned into a flight broker, without the consent of passengers and at the expense of workers. Pilots and staff have come to realize that a work dispute is the only solution to this harming of passengers’ interests.”

El Al told Channel Two that the problem was ongoing work slowdowns by pilots who are demanding better contracts. “Over the past year pilots have conducted work slowdowns. In order to prevent delays and harm to passengers, we have been forced to off-load flights onto other carriers. Without that, the pilots’ actions would cause many flights to be canceled each day. It is odd that the Histadrut would choose to deal with this by calling for a work dispute instead of persuading pilots to return to their normal work schedules.”