Tourism Officials Beg Histadrut: Keep Airport Out of Teva Solidarity Strike

Ben Gurion, Terminal 1
A departure screen at Ben Gurion International Airport. (Flash90)

The strike called by Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn in solidarity with dismissed Teva workers will shut down Ben Gurion airport on Sunday morning – and tourism officials have been asking for an exemption.

“Already we have received some cancellations as word of the strike gets out,” said Yossi Patael, head of the Israel Incoming Tourism Board. “Labor solidarity is an important principle, but we have to take into consideration the effect of shuttering the gates in and out of the country.”

The strike will see all members of the Histadrut labor union taking off Sunday morning, in protest over the 1,700 layoffs announced Thursday afternoon by Teva management. No planes will be allowed to take off or land between 8:00 a.m. and the afternoon, with 57 outgoing flights and 24 arriving flights to be affected. A total of 11,500 passengers will be facing delays. The delays are likely to resonate through the rest of Sunday and into Monday as flights are rescheduled, Authority officials said.

Also to be closed are the check-in counters, and safety and security personnel will not be working either. Check-in counters will reopen only at noon, and safety and service staff will only begin to prepare planes for takeoff then, so the first flights are unlikely to take off before 2:30 in the afternoon, the Authority said.

Patael asked Nissenkorn to make an exception and allow the airport to remain open, given the damage the tourism industry could sustain as the result of a strike at the airport. “We have had enough trouble preventing groups from canceling over the events surrounding the American recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital,” he wrote to Nissenkorn, according to a report in Globes.

“Tourism is an important economic engine, especially in the periphery. Harming it at this delicate time will cause great losses to the industry, and the workers will end up paying the price.” Nissenkorn has not yet replied to the request, the report said.

After a meeting with company heads Wednesday night, Nissenkorn angrily denounced the company and called for a countrywide strike Sunday. “Municipalities, banks, public transportation, health maintenance organizations – all will be shut until the afternoon hours in solidarity with workers. I am seeing a cold, calculated desire by Teva management to solve its problems by firing workers, and we will not let this happen. We will start work actions Sunday and continue until this problem is solved.

“Teva received over NIS 22 billion in benefits from the state since 2006,” Nissenkorn added. “The company had no problem taking the money, but now it is turning its back on the state and its citizens. The government cannot stand by and watch silently. Just as it granted Teva the benefits, it must now demand it solve this problem.”