A labor dispute at Israel’s national airline, El Al, moved up a notch Tuesday when management appealed to a labor court to stop pilots who also work as flight inspectors from quitting their inspection jobs.
Such a move would cause a shortage of inspectors and could bring El Al flights to a halt, with huge financial repercussions, the company said in a statement to the Tel Aviv stock exchange.
On Wednesday morning, the Tel Aviv court will address the company’s request to declare resignation by flight inspectors an illegal strike.
The move comes as resignation notices from pilots serving as trainers were due to come into effect.
The main dispute revolves around compensation for pilots aged between 65 and 67.
Under international aviation rules, pilots have to stop flying commercial international routes at age 65. But the El Al pilots’ pensions only kick in at age 67, Israel’s official retirement age for men. Some 40 pilots are trapped in this gap at any given time.
El Al transfers pilots aged 65-67 to its training branch and pays them accordingly. But training salaries are less than half of those earned by active pilots.
The pilots want pilots’ salaries for training work in order to maintain their pension rights.
Another round of talks ended in failure Tuesday night when — according to management — workers’ representatives left the negotiation table. El Al claimed the pilots refused an offer of more than NIS 50,000 for an average of nine training days worked per month.
The pilots’ union denied this version, saying El Al’s director general David Maimon had come to the meeting determined to scupper the discussions, Calcalist said.
Earlier this month, a labor court ordered striking pilots to return to work immediately after several flights were canceled.