Looming public sector strike threatens Christmas travel
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Looming public sector strike threatens Christmas travel

Christian group asks labor federation to exempt Ben Gurion Airport from nationwide action slated for Wednesday

A giant Christmas Tree being placed during Christmas preparations at Nativity Church Square in Bethlehem on November 30, 2015. (Flash90)
A giant Christmas Tree being placed during Christmas preparations at Nativity Church Square in Bethlehem on November 30, 2015. (Flash90)

Christian groups in Israel warned Tuesday that a general strike threatened by the Jewish state’s largest labor union could disrupt travel for thousands of pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land for Christmas.

Barring a last-minute wage deal, the Histadrut labor federation says its members — including workers at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, government offices, hospitals, schools and public transport — will down tools at 6:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) Wednesday.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn were reported to be meeting late into Tuesday night in a search for compromise over the pay dispute.

Wadie Abunassar, a spokesman for local Christian groups said that earlier in the day he pleaded with Nissenkorn to exempt air travel from any strike action.

“I contacted the office of the Histadrut chairman this morning to ask that they make an exception of the airport,” he said in a statement.

“That is in order not to hurt the thousands of Christian pilgrims who are due to arrive here for Christmas and hundreds of Christians from Israel who are to travel abroad for the holiday,” he said.

Histadrut is demanding across-the-board public sector pay rises of 11% over the five-year period 2013-18, while the government argues that with deflation in the economy this year workers’ spending power has increased, and offers a more modest increase of 3-7% over the same period.

Treasury officials are reportedly ready to consider more significant increases for the lowest paid workers only.

Public radio said airlines were rescheduling many of Wednesday’s flights to the early hours, before the strike is due to begin, and advised travelers to check with carriers or travel agents before setting out.

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