Labor court orders ‘sick’ train operators back to work

Labor court orders ‘sick’ train operators back to work

Dozens feign ailment for 2nd day; drivers must report for duty or undergo a medical examination, court rules

People wait to board a train, June 4, 2013. (photo credit: Shay Levy/FLASH90)
People wait to board a train, June 4, 2013. (photo credit: Shay Levy/FLASH90)

The Tel Aviv District Labor Court ordered dozens of train drivers back to work on Thursday after they all stayed at home for a second day, claiming that they were feeling ill.

Israel Railways struggled to maintain services as some 35 train drivers skipped their shifts in an unofficial strike.

The court ruled that the drivers must either return to their duties or report to the Israel Railways’ own clinic by 3:00 pm where a doctor’s examination will confirm if they are really unwell.

Israel Railways said that trains would continue to run on schedule during the morning but that if the drivers didn’t return to their engines by the afternoon then up to 80 trains could be cancelled. The cancellations, coming at the end of the work week in Israel would affect thousands of commuters and soldiers heading home for the weekend.

On Wednesday the Tel Aviv District Labor Court told the Histadrut Labor Union to order the drivers back to work but only seven out of 42 initial strikers showed up the next day, Army Radio reported.

The court reconvened on Thursday morning to review the situation and to consider issuing direct orders to the drivers that they return to work.

On Tuesday night, 42 employees called in sick, about a fifth of total driver roll call, leaving the work schedule for the following day with gaping holes and forcing the management to reduce the frequency of some of the trains.

Tuesday’s mass call-in was the second of the year, as employees declared a wildcat action to protest new guidelines for the employee work schedule.

Speaking on Army Radio Wednesday morning, a management representative said the vast majority of trains would run on schedule. On Tuesday, an official letter was sent to the Histadrut labor union to try and reach a solution. Letters were also sent to the employees who stayed at home, urging them to return to work.

The workers’ move was apparently conceived as a response to management’s decision to introduce a new, automated system that would allocate the workers’ shifts instead of having shift supervisors determine the work schedule.

The old system at Israel Railways had allowed supervisors to divvy up shifts unequally, giving their friends more convenient and profitable shifts, management said in explaining the switch to a computerized system.

The company had recently sent a warning letter to all of its workers, according to Ynet, advising them that “serious steps” would be taken against employees caught feigning illness and playing hooky from work.

Yaron Hadari, human resources and logistics director for Israel Railways, wrote in the letter, “It is clear to everyone that this behavior can cause disruptions to the movement of trains and harm to the company’s efforts to add and improve the service given to passengers, as well as damage to the company’s ability to allow workers to take vacations. It goes without saying that we condemn this behavior and expect that such actions will have no part in the accepted norms of behavior among employees and managers.”

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