The Bottom Line / When the cat's away
The Airports Authority has taken to strike action, causing havoc at Ben-Gurion Airport. They have disrupted outgoing flights, prevented baggage distribution to incoming passengers, and caused difficulties for tourists.
The Airports Authority has taken to strike action, causing havoc at Ben-Gurion Airport. They have disrupted outgoing flights, prevented baggage distribution to incoming passengers, and caused difficulties for tourists and business travelers. The action started Saturday night, but was put on hold for two days for Yom Kippur.
When you hear why they are striking, you'll find it hard to believe: The airport workers are not angry over job losses, or pay cuts, but rather the government's intention to place the airport within the boundaries of Lod Municipality. The Interior Minister has rightly said
Ben-Gurion airport should belong to one of the cities in the area, and pay local taxes (arnona) - like any other business or citizen.
But the authority workers think otherwise. They are apparently worried over the new arnona payments (on top of the heavy load they already burden the passengers with). But since when has that been the workers' problem? And if it is, what does management deal with? Handing out holiday vouchers? Maybe the management is secretly colluding with the workers, as it wouldn't seem right for them to strike, as they themselves are political appointees of the same government.
Railway workers (another monopoly) took strike action for two hours last Wednesday, disrupting rail services, in protest at the government's decision to take railways out of the Ports and Railways Authority remit, turning the track network into a separate government body. Here again, the all-too-easy weapon of striking leads us to conclude that privatization is vital for the railways and the Airports Authority, so that once and for all, they will take business considerations into account before downing tools and disrupting the public.
In comparison, the Histadrut labor federation has discovered some responsibility recently. Chairman Amir Peretz made a fiery speech in August declaring strong action, but in practice disrupted the economy for only a few hours, causing little significant damage. The labor federation's problem is that no cost-of-living increment has been agreed with employers, as inflation was very low up to the beginning of this year, and there is no wage agreement with the Finance Ministry, because the minister wants to erode wages in the public sector as part of budget cutbacks. So what can be done in times of war, in deep recession and high unemployment? Clearly any cost-of-living increment or wage increase will work its way into job losses in the private sector.
So we see three clear positions before us: Private sector workers, way down the scale, suffering job losses and wage cuts; above them, the public sector workers, who have not suffered job losses or pay cuts; and topping them all, the workers in the state monopolies, no job losses, no pay cuts - au contraire in fact; wages have gone up. And so whenever a new idea pops up, simply take industrial action, and forget the damage, the effect, the disruption, because, at the moment, there is no one in control here, no prime minister, and so the monopoly workers are giving it to us straight between the eyes.