Labor Problems at El Al Not Over, Say Flight Attendants

TEL AVIV -

Now that El Al pilots have signed a deal with the company, it’s the turn of service personnel to seek a better deal. Unlike the pilots, though, the flight attendants, kitchen personnel, pursers, and other service staff, many of whom earn less than NIS 10,000 a month, don’t have a well-funded workers’ organization and are seeking raise NIS 200,000 to carry out a legal battle to secure their rights.

One-hundred-forty full-time flight attendants work for El Al, many of them with 10 years or more of experience. The airline also has a staff of contract workers not covered by union contracts. The full-time workers earn a base salary of NIS 4,750 per month. Even after travel pay and other extras, few reach the NIS 10,000 level, even during the summer travel season. Among the complaints of attendants is that they are “on the clock” only when the doors of a plane close. All preparations for a flight, including being available on call for a flight, is “on the house,” according to groups representing the attendants.

The base contract requires attendants to work 75 hours a month and they are provided with a hotel room and breakfast if they are required to stay overnight abroad after a flight. The time on the ground does not accrue to their work hours. While they are paid overtime for hours past 75 hours per month, the attendants with many years of experience have complained that the airline prefers to give that overtime to the newer attendants, who get paid less per overtime hour. Staff has complained that the airline requires them to often put in 16-hour workdays, with many of those hours not paid.

In addition, the staff contends, the senior attendants of late have been asked to take on management roles in organizing flights, such as communicating with suppliers and arranging for schedules of outside cleaning services, etc. They are not being compensated for this, either, according to groups representing the workers.

In a statement to Globes, which published the attendants’ complaints, El Al said that “the agreements with all El Al workers were negotiated in good faith, with workers represented by Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn. New understandings have been worked out and new work agreements with all workers are set to be signed soon. Among these agreements will be one that covers full-time attendants.”