If you are traveling by train on an Israel Railways line Tuesday afternoon, add an extra five minutes to your estimated journey time. That’s the amount of time trains were halted early Tuesday by their conductors, as the Histadrut labor union continues its pressure on railway management over scheduling issues.
All trains stopped in place for five minutes Tuesday, as orders went out over an emergency line to conductors and motormen that a short wildcat strike was taking place. The strike came after the latest round of talks with management broke down Tuesday morning. In a statement, the railway workers’ committee said that “despite the claims of management, this is not an issue of money, but of safety. We are demanding a reasonable break for conductors who are working nine hour shifts. Workers need an opportunity to refresh themselves in order to ensure safety.”
Railway management recently changed the schedules of train conductors, adding an extra half hour to their shifts. The union is demanding an additional amount of paid break time to “allow workers to refresh themselves with a cup of coffee,” it said in the statement. On Sunday, the union shut down two train lines for the entire day as part of its protest.
Management said that Tuesday’s five-minute strike “held all passengers hostage, and this is the kind of thing only an irresponsible workers’ committee would do. The action increased danger and risk to hundreds of trains and thousands of passengers, and caused delays that will last for hours.”
In a statement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that “these strikes have to stop. Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn,” a top candidate on Netanyahu’s rival Blue and White list, “a top candidate for Finance Minister, will put this country on strike. He will return us to the days when a Histadrut-oriented economy hurt ordinary Israelis. We cannot allow this to happen.”