After train workers call in ‘sick,’ Israel Railways halts service across country

After train workers call in ‘sick,’ Israel Railways halts service across country

Transportation minister backs management’s decision, accusing workers’ union of facilitating ‘anarchy’; labor federation announces trains to resume later Friday morning

Commuters at the newly built Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem, September 25, 2018. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Commuters at the newly built Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem, September 25, 2018. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

An hour after Israel Railways froze its service throughout the country Friday in response to an apparent strike by several employees, the Histadrut labor federation announced trains would be back on track later that morning.

Israel Railways said in a statement that it had halted all of its trains at 8:00 a.m. after eight of its 21 traffic managers called in sick in an “illegal and savage” move they claimed had been planned in advance by the workers’ union.

Management said it had called its other traffic managers in an effort to find replacements, but none of them answered their phones. Unprepared to violate safety protocols that require at least four such inspectors to be working at all times, Israel Railways decided it had no choice but to freeze services.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz released a statement backing management in its decision, accusing the workers’ union of facilitating “anarchy” and taking Israeli travelers “hostage” in the process.

Acting Foreign Minister and Transportation Minister Israel Katz speaks in Jerusalem on February 27, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

For its part, the workers’ union claimed that no strike had been organized and that the eight workers had been sick for several days.

Nonetheless, the Histadrut labor federation announced shortly thereafter that train services would resume within the hour as the matter had apparently been resolved. Israel Railways confirmed the announcement in a statement of its own.

The management told passengers to expect considerable delays and apologized for the inconvenience.

A similar unfolding of events took place in February during which train services in northern Israel were thrown into chaos as dozens of drivers and inspectors called in sick in an apparent protest over new work schedules.

Thirty drivers called in sick, cancelling some 24 trains as a result.

The Israel Railways management denounced that protest as irresponsible and unnecessary.

Last December the rail company announced that the CEO of Israel Railways, Shahar Ayalon, was to step down. The development came following a string of problems with services and quarterly losses of hundreds of millions of shekels.

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