‘Sick’ train drivers derail service amid spat over work hours
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‘Sick’ train drivers derail service amid spat over work hours

Israel Railways management accuses workers of ‘aggressive and unworthy conduct,’ as protest disrupts schedules in northern Israel

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Commuters at the newly built Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem, September 25, 2018. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Commuters at the newly built Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem, September 25, 2018. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Train services in northern Israel were thrown into chaos Wednesday morning as dozens of drivers and inspectors called in sick in an apparent protest over new work schedules.

Thirty drivers called in sick and some 24 trains were canceled.

The Israel Railways management denounced the protest as irresponsible and unnecessary.

“The Israel Railways administration calls on the workers union and the train drivers to come to their senses, show responsibility, not harm the railway service, and immediately return to regular work,” the state-owned rail company said in a statement.

Trains running between Karmiel and Hof Karmel were canceled and there were disruptions in services on the Beit Shemesh to Netanya line, the Haifa to Ashkelon line, and the Ra’anana to Beersheba line, and on trains leaving the Beit She’an station.

Israel Railways advised the public to check for updates on the company’s website and phone app.

The company said the workers called in sick after the administration increased their work hours in an effort to meet heavy demands on rail services.

“Today, a driver drives on average three and a half hours, compared to a permitted six hours, and in light of the operational demands and the state of the company, the drivers will drive about four hours,” the railways said in a statement. “This is a measure needed for the railways at this time.”

The company noted that the drivers would be paid at a premium rate for the additional work hours.

In December the rail company announced that the CEO of Israel Railways, Shahar Ayalon, was to step down. The development came following a string of problems with services and recent quarterly losses of hundreds of millions of shekels.

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