Ben-Gurion, Eilat Airports Reopen After Strikers Keep Passengers Stranded

Flight departures from Ben-Gurion International Airport resumed at about 6:30 P.M. yesterday after a two-hour strike.

Eilat airport, where all flights were canceled for several hours, also resumed operations. Hundreds of travelers were affected by the flight delays.

The resumption of work followed a stormy meeting between a Histadrut Labor Federation representative and the Israel Airports Authority union, at which the union asked to be allowed to continue the sanctions, but the Histadrut refused.

The head of the union, Pinhas Idan, told Haaretz that the strikes were to protest the hiring of security workers for the Eilat airport through a subcontractor and the IAA's failure to issue hiring tenders. Talks will continue today, focusing on the terms and conditions under which airport workers are hired.

Arkia Airlines ceased to provide security guards and officers for luggage inspection in Eilat at the beginning of May. Responsibility for security reverted to the IAA, which issued tenders to outsource some of the services to private personnel agencies.

Idan said that management had rehired shift leaders who had formerly worked for Arkia, while lower-ranking staff were taken on by an agency.

He expressed his opposition to the use by IAA of outsourced workers and to the creation of two classes of workers, with different terms and conditions.

"In early May, the IAA began implementing the outgoing transportation minister's decision regarding the transfer of security checks at domestic airports from Arkia to the IAA," the authority said in response.

"In the course of implementing this decision, the IAA formed business relationships with several security companies, while making ironclad demands with regard to the salary and benefits of the workers."

"IAA's management believes it is appropriate to point out that the union is continuing its destructive behavior, which hurts domestic and international travelers, in an effort to further its own illegitimate interests," the statement continued.

"The union called a wildcat strike that did not have the approval of the necessary labor relations authorities, while throwing sand in the eyes of the public with regard to its real motives."