Court orders striking El Al pilots back to work
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Court orders striking El Al pilots back to work

Aviators complain they are barred from international flights from age 65, but only get pension at 67; despite order, flights to Beijing and Hong Kong cancelled

A Boeing 747 El Al plane (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
A Boeing 747 El Al plane (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A labor court on Monday ordered striking pilots of the national carrier El Al Israel Airlines to return to work immediately.

The order came after the cancellation of five flights to or from Europe on Sunday, in addition to Saturday-night flights to New York, Boston, and Moscow, and a flight to New York on Thursday.

However, despite the court order, two further flights to Hong Kong and Beijing were cancelled.

The dispute is over compensation for pilots aged between 65 and 67.

Under international aviation rules, pilots have to stop flying international routes at age 65. But the El Al pilots’ pensions only kick in at age 67, Israel’s official retirement age for men.

How to compensate long-time pilots during that two-year gap has been the subject of an ongoing skirmish between the El Al management and the airline’s pilots union. Some 40 pilots face this predicament at any given time.

El Al CEO David Maimon attends the Annual International Civil Aviation Conference in Herzliya on November 17, 2016. Photo by Flash90
El Al CEO David Maimon attends the Annual International Civil Aviation Conference in Herzliya on November 17, 2016. (Flash90)

Monday’s order by the Tel Aviv District Labor Court followed a night of unsuccessful attempts by El Al’s management and pilots union to reach a deal, with the mediation of Avi Nissenkorn, head of the Histadrut labor federation in Israel.

Management turned to the court on Sunday night.

Giving her judgment at the Tel Aviv District Labor Court, Judge Ofira Dagan-Tuchmacher criticized both pilots and management for aggressive behavior and indifference to the public.

Following the court decision, the pilots union said in a statement that El Al’s management thought they could “subdue the workers by force.”

The statement added, “El Al’s management doesn’t understand that in a world where there’s a shortage of pilots, their behavior will leave them without pilots.”

The union’s leader, Nir Tsuk, has asked pilots to respect the court’s decision.

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