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Flights delayed, baggage stuck in brief Ben Gurion seasonal workers’ strike

Some 200 employees receive notices of possible firing as busy summer and holiday season comes to an end

El Al airplanes on the tarmac at the Ben Gurion International Airport on August 14, 2012. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
El Al airplanes on the tarmac at the Ben Gurion International Airport on August 14, 2012. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Ben Gurion Airport saw hours-long delays overnight in departures and baggage claims due to an unannounced labor strike by nine seasonal workers slated to be let go as the busy summer and holiday season comes to an end.

Departures were delayed when the night shift crew charged with loading luggage on and off of planes, as well as other key logistical tasks, failed to show up to work on Sunday night.

Some arriving passengers waited as long as three hours for their luggage to reach the baggage claim area.

The delays are the result of an apparently coordinated decision by the nine workers not to show up for work late Sunday.

According to Army Radio, some 200 seasonal workers received letters in recent days apprising them that they would be summoned for a hearing ahead of possible firing. The end of the Sukkot holiday on Thursday night marked the conclusion of the airport’s busiest season, during which millions of tourists enter and leave the country over the summer months and into the Jewish high holiday season in the early fall.

The airport bolsters its manpower each busy season with the additional employees, who are hired on seasonal contracts and know they will be fired in the fall.

Officials at Israel’s main international airport said Monday morning that the arrival of the Monday morning shift allowed the airport to restore regular operations.

One Israeli businessman, interviewed early Monday morning by Army Radio as he sat in his plane on the tarmac waiting to take off, said the airport was quiet, with “no sense of a strike. Only once we reached the boarding gate were we told that our suitcases weren’t loaded onto the plane, and it’s up to us to decide whether to board the flight or not.”

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