‘Sick’ train drivers back at work after agreeing to labor talks
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‘Sick’ train drivers back at work after agreeing to labor talks

Dozens of canceled train routes back on schedule as national labor union brokers deal for Israel Railways to negotiate better pay and conditions

Illustrative: An Israel Railways train passes the Ayalon Highway, near the Arlozorov Street 'Central' train station in Tel Aviv, August 23, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Israel Railways train passes the Ayalon Highway, near the Arlozorov Street 'Central' train station in Tel Aviv, August 23, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Train drivers went back to work on Tuesday, after a brief labor strike saw dozens of trains canceled across the country over the last two days.

The unofficial strike was called off after the national Histadrut labor union brokered a deal overnight that would see Israel Railways employees and management sit down for negotiations next month, Channel 10 reported.

Over the weekend, 35 train drivers called in sick for the week, but the company claimed it was an effort by workers seeking a pay increase, and accused them of holding an illegal strike.

On Sunday, 13 trains were canceled due to the lack of drivers. On Monday, 21 trains between Rishon Lezion and Lod were canceled, as well as nine trains between Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.

Israel Railways said it had canceled the routes with the fewest passengers to minimize disruption; however, delays in the train schedules were felt on routes throughout the country.

On Monday, Hadashot news called some of the drivers to inquire about their health, but several of them simply hung up the phone.

The labor action was reportedly linked to efforts to improve pay and conditions ahead of the opening of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv fast train, slated to begin running in the coming days.

The Railways Workers’ Committee told the Walla news site there was no need for the cancellations, saying that only four drivers were needed to operate the canceled lines, while there were some 300 train drivers employed by Israel Railways.

“Is it really necessary to cancel passenger trains,” the committee asked, “or is this perhaps just the railway administration once again redirecting the fire from its own failings toward the workers and the union?”

It also rejected the accusations that it was conducting an illegal strike.

“We want to reiterate and clarify that the workers’ committee did not give any official instructions to the workers to start sanctions,” it said. “The railway administration should examine itself and stop throwing accusations at us.”

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