Following the merger of American Airlines and US Airways last week, the new airline's plans to fly to Israel threaten to reignite a long-simmering labor dispute brought by the Israeli employees of the old carrier Trans World Airlines.
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“In Israel, the collective bargaining agreements signed by the Histadrut [labor federation] and the airline TWA were never honored,” said attorney Yoni Abadi, who is representing 80 former TWA employees in Israel.
“The TWA station in Israel was closed, the employees were laid off without receiving their salary, severance payments or the other rights and conditions they were entitled to under the agreements and by law,” he added.
TWA had been flying to Israel for more than half a century, before it went bankrupt and was bought by American Airlines in 2001. Israeli employees of TWA lost their jobs when American opted not to continue the Israel route. But the newly created carrier, to be called New American, will be taking over US Airways’ New York-Tel Aviv route, and the TWA employees are determined to get compensation they say was never paid them.
TWA’s former employees in Israel fought American Airlines in court for compensation for over nine years and reached a settlement four years ago. However, according to Abadi, the employees have yet to receive all the money they are entitled to under the settlement, which itself was just 14% of the sum he said had been due them by TWA.
Abadi estimated that former TWA employees in Israel were owed in the “tens of millions of shekels.”
The continued mistreatment of Israeli employees would almost certainly lead to a public campaign with negative media exposure for New American in Israel, said Meir Knobel, a former manager of TWA’s Israel station. He criticized American Airlines for discriminating against Israeli TWA employees by failing to pay them the money owed them by the bankrupt airline compared to rest of TWA’s employees after the company was acquired.
Abadi said that everywhere where TWA had operations, its employees either continued working for American Airlines after the acquisition or were laid off but received all the salary, social benefits and severance payments they were owed. The only exception, he claimed, was Israel.
American Airlines and US Airways completed their merger on December 9.