National park workers threaten to disrupt Israelis’ holiday plans with Passover strike
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National park workers threaten to disrupt Israelis’ holiday plans with Passover strike

Hundreds of thousands visit over 200 nature reserves, 70 national parks during vacation every year; management to ask labor courts to keep sites open

A water walk at the Majrase Nature Reserve near the Sea of Galilee.  (Photo by Shmuel Bar-Am)
A water walk at the Majrase Nature Reserve near the Sea of Galilee. (Photo by Shmuel Bar-Am)

National park and nature reserve workers announced Tuesday that they planned to strike for at least two days during the upcoming Passover holidays, just when hundreds of thousands of vacationing Israelis like to head out to see nature in full bloom.

The strike on Wednesday and Thursday, April 12 and 13 — which follows what workers say is the suspension of negotiations over salaries and conditions — will involve all levels of staff, including managers, although inspectors will be available in case of an emergency, Channel 2 News reported.

But the senior management of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said it would turn to the labor courts to make sure that the parks and reserves stay open.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis visit the parks over the Passover holidays every year.

Israeli boys visit the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Paneas, in the Banyas Nature Reserve in the Golan Heights, on July 9, 2008. (Yossi Zamir/ Flash 90)
Israeli boys visit the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Paneas, in the Banyas Nature Reserve in the Golan Heights, July 9, 2008. (Yossi Zamir/ Flash90)

The workers committee has ordered staff to shutter the more than 200 nature reserves and 70 national parks, not to answer phone calls and not to attend meetings.

It warned that the industrial action could be extended beyond the two days.

Although there is considerable overlap, national parks in Israel usually focus on historical, archaeological or architectural sites of interest, while nature reserves center on flora, fauna, landscape and other aspects of nature.

Issues of dispute include management trying to force workers into personal contracts as opposed to collective agreements — making promotion more difficult, workers say — seasonal employment, and quotas on hours of work.

Fast friends: An ibex chats up one of Tristram’s grackles on the Ein Gedi rocks (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)
An ibex chats up a Tristram’s grackle at the Ein Gedi nature reserve (photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am)

“The proposals that management has suggested within the framework of the negotiations are empty of all content and the (wage) additions we’re asking for in light of the increased daily workload,” Channel 2 quoted one worker as saying.

A statement from management said that the strike had been called while talks were going on and while understandings between management and workers were being examined by the Finance Ministry’s wages supervisor.

“The [workers] committee’s behavior, which uses the workers as pawns and holds the public that wants to vacation as hostage, is ruining work relations at the authority,” the statement added.

“In the coming days, management will turn to the labor court in order to prevent distress being caused to the public and to allow it to visit sites of nature and heritage all over our country.”

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