Driving Instructors Feeling Pain of License Bureau Strike

A pathetic-looking pine tree cast a feeble shadow on four driving instructors sitting at a small table, outside the License Bureau office in Holon. Three people rode motorcycles in circles on an asphalt lot nearby.

"If you had come here last summer you wouldn't have seen the asphalt. Everything was covered with motorcycles. Today it's like Yom Kippur, everything is dead. Summer is our best season, it's the time when people learn to ride a motorcycle. This strike has wiped us out," said instructor Ofer Ben-Asher.

For almost two weeks, the License Bureau employees have been on strike.

The offices are closed to the public, there are no road tests, and no licenses are being issued. This means no learner's permits, which harms both the students and the driving instructors.

However, some services are still available via voicemail at *5678 or 1-222-5678, or on the Transportation Ministry Web site.

The workers are striking over a ministry decision to outsource some tasks related to vehicle licensing. The lines are sometimes so long that truck drivers spend the night there, asleep in their vehicles, in order to ensure their place. Some people even sell their turns.

The Transportation Ministry stated that privatization is designed to make things easier for the workers and the public, and emphasized that not a single employee has been fired. Therefore, the reason for the strike is unclear, it said.

The employees have posted a notice on the front door, protesting the unilateral step and stating that they fear further tasks will be taken from them in the future. "Man, read the notice," a License Bureau guard said to a frustrated man who was shaking the locked glass door.

The door occasionally opened and employees entered and left - despite the strike, they come to the office and spend their day in the closed building. They refused to speak.

"Maybe there's a chance," begged Najib Hinawi when the door opened. He came this week to the Holon office for the fifth time to renew his truck driver's license. Hinawi, a resident of Jaffa, works at his family's business, selling meat. "It's urgent, I sell meat to various branches and I can't work," he pleaded a clerk who was leaving.

"Nobody is paying attention to me," said Hinawi in frustration. People continued arriving at the closed office, each with a different request.

Meanwhile, Yaakov, one of the driving instructors, left the shade. A student had arrived. "This is the first student I've had in three days. If the strike continues, it will be a real blow for me," he said.

The civil servants' division of the Histadrut labor federation, which is representing the strikers, did not respond.