Turbulence Ahead for Arkia

Employees are threatening to cancel flights this week due to a dispute over foreign staffing, adding to a list of other gripes.

Employees of the Israeli airline Arkia will try to force the company to cancel flights to and from Eilat on Thursday as part of a labor dispute involving a leased Polish airliner and its staff.

Arkia leased the Polish airline to conduct two domestic flights and a flight to Budapest while one of its own planes was used to carry Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Poland on Wednesday, an honor Arkia won in a tender.

The flights targeted for cancelling are those scheduled to take place on the foreign aircraft with the foreign crew. Arkia employees object to the leasing of the staff along with the airliner.

"We won't give the leased plane ground services and we won't let it take off from Eilat," said union chairman Yigal Cohen. "We oppose the management's actions, which were taken without coordination with us and which violate agreements."

In a letter to Arkia CEO Gadi Tepper, titled "Request to launch a labor dispute," Cohen stated that the decision to hire outside employees to staff the Polish airliner violates an agreement made last year and threatens employees' rights.

Earlier this week, the Arkia union told the Histadrut Labor Federation that it intended to renew its labor dispute because of what it describes as foot-dragging by management on a new collective wage agreement. Once the labor dispute is renewed, employees are considering a number of steps, including an all-out strike, said Cohen.

Arkia's employees own 30% of the company's shares. The remaining 70% is owned by the Nakash family.

Arkia declined to comment.

David Bachar