The Tel Aviv Labor Court on Wednesday froze until next week the resignation of eight EL AL airline pilots whose departure could have brought the company’s flights to a halt.
Court-ordered negotiations between El Al management and its pilots’ union are to continue until Friday afternoon and the pilots will work until Saturday night, after which they can choose to make good on their resignation threat.
EL AL had appealed to the court to stop the pilots from quitting. The eight individuals, who are among the airline’s most senior pilots, serve as flight inspectors and supervisors. Such a move would cause a shortage of inspectors and could force a freeze in all flight operations, with huge financial repercussions, the company said in a statement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
The move comes as resignation notices from the supervisor pilots were due to come into effect Wednesday morning.
The main dispute between the sides revolves 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 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, which are affected by their salary at the end of their careers.
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 ($13,300) 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, the Calcalist economic journal said.
Earlier this month, after several flights were canceled, a labor court ordered striking pilots to return to work immediately.
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