Israel’s airport workers strike on hold until further meetings Monday

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After approximately two hours, the dramatic strike action – impacting both passenger and cargo flights – was postponed.

El Al Israel Airlines planes are seen on the tarmac at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel March 10, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

El Al Israel Airlines planes are seen on the tarmac at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel March 10, 2020

(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) workers union temporarily halted the departure and arrival of all flights on Friday morning in protest against the government’s failure to renew the flow of international air travel into the country.

After approximately two hours, the dramatic strike action – impacting both passenger and cargo flights – was postponed, with the IAA citing urgent Friday morning consultations between Transportation Minister Miri Regev and the Finance Ministry.

Worker representatives said they will now refrain from all protest activity prior to convening a meeting with Regev and Finance Minister Israel Katz scheduled for Monday, and that aircraft en route to Ben-Gurion Airport would be permitted to land after being informed that they would be required to find alternative landing arrangements.

Last Tuesday, the IAA’s workers union threatened to shut down Israel’s airports this week if the government does not finalize a date for the renewal of aviation traffic and enable foreign nationals to enter the country again.

Initial hopes to increase operations in June have been dismissed in recent days, with Ben-Gurion Airport managing-director Shmuel Zakai now expecting that Israel will only open its gates to foreign visitors in mid-July.

“Unfortunately, the Health Ministry has not yet set a date for the return of flights,” the workers union said in a statement, emphasizing that 2,500 IAA employees currently on unpaid leave are set to stop receiving unemployment benefits on July 1.

In a statement, Regev’s office voiced harsh criticism regarding the conduct of the Finance Ministry, which she claimed had conducted negotiations overnight without the input of transportation officials and had led to the brief declaration of strike action by the workers union.

“Inviting workers to a negotiations meeting behind the back of appointed officials and the minister is grave and improper conduct, and it is a shame that the workers union cooperated with it,” Regev’s office said.

“Finance Ministry officials are acting as the house-owners of the State of Israel and their conduct led to the crisis and the strike. The unequivocal position of the Transportation Minister is that the state must stand alongside the IAA and ensure the continued employment of workers who have generated great income for the state over the years.”

Regev also made it clear to workers union chairman Pinhas Idan that sudden strike action was unacceptable and that the union must return to the negotiating table immediately, her office said.

International aviation traffic in Israel has almost ground to a halt since the government denied entry to foreign nationals on March 18, even if they can prove their ability to remain in home isolation for 14 days upon arrival. The entry ban is currently valid until June 15.

According to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Thursday, only 2,300 foreign visitors arrived in Israel during the entire month of May.

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