El Al, pilots seal deal to end work dispute
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El Al, pilots seal deal to end work dispute

Pension rights, training hours covered in agreement reached after all-night talks, stowing long-simmering feud

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

El Al jets parked on the tarmac of Ben Gurion International Airport. (Flash90)
El Al jets parked on the tarmac of Ben Gurion International Airport. (Flash90)

A long-running labor dispute between pilots and management at the El Al airline came to an end Thursday morning after court-ordered talks yielded a deal.

Following all-night talks, the sides reached an agreement covering training and pensions and would iron out details at a meeting later in the day, said mediator Avi Nissenkorn, the head of the Histadrut labor federation.

The dispute had caused headaches for the airline and passengers as flights were halted due to striking pilots.

On Wednesday, the labor court had ordered eight pilots threatening to resign to put off the move until Saturday, ordering more talks between the sides.

Nissenkorn told Israel Radio on Thursday that the deal covered the length of training that experienced pilots would commit to provide, as well as pension rights, which had been a central sticking point.

The pilot’s union said it “applauds the understandings signed to stop the damage to travelers and workers,” according to Channel 10 News.

“An agreement in the same vein could have been reached a long time ago,” the pilots added.

Listening to a Tel Aviv Labor Court hearing against the resignation of El Al pilots who also serve as flight inspectors, February 15, 2017. Photo by Flash90
Listening to a Tel Aviv Labor Court hearing against the resignation of El Al pilots who also serve as flight inspectors, February 15, 2017. (Flash90)

The main dispute between the sides revolved around compensation for pilots between the ages of 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 has been paying them accordingly. But training salaries are less than half of those earned by active pilots.

The pilots were demanding pilots’ salaries for training work in order to maintain their pension rights, which are affected by their salary at the end of their careers.

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