The Israel Airports Authority on Monday petitioned the National Labor Court to issue an injunction to prevent Ben Gurion airport employees from striking in solidarity with the three Israeli airlines protesting the government's decision to sign an accord which is expected to expose Israel and 27 European Union countries to mutual air competition.
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The Histadrut Labor Federation had ordered Airports Authority employees to strike on Tuesday morning in solidarity with the Israeli airlines - El Al, Arkia, and Israir - who began their protest on Sunday just before the government approved the Open Skies pact. The Israeli airlines claim the agreement will badly hurt their income and lead to heavy job losses.
The solidarity strike would shut Ben-Gurion International Airport completely on Tuesday at 5 A.M. for at least several hours.
Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said the strike would be averted if a solution is found.
The Histadrut's exceptions committee on Monday allowed three flights to take off, despite the strike: An El Al flights to Paris and return, carrying the closed casket of a top French rabbi who had asked to be buried in Israel, and an Israir flight from Berlin carrying 90 employees of a pharmaceutical company.
In announcing the solidarity strike, Eini called on Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to enter immediate negotiations to “find a solution to prevent the collapse of Israel’s airlines and thousands of job losses.”
While Histadrut officials claim they do not oppose the Open Skies accord in its entirety, a union official said: “We want to ensure that no employee of El Al, Arkia or Israir will suffer from the new arrangement, either by being fired or due to a negative impact on benefits or working conditions. This could all happen under the pretense of increasing efficiency.”
Eini had called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone the decision by a month, allowing for more time to negotiate issues such as employee benefits. But Eini’s efforts proved fruitless, and the Open Skies agreement was approved by a sound majority of 16 ministers. Three ministers opposed the accord − Amir Peretz (Hatnuah), Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu).
The proposal brought before the cabinet on Sunday states that "The Open Skies agreement with the European Union is intended to open up flight routes between Israel and EU members, which will lower the costs of flying from Israel to Europe, as well as opening up unlimited new destinations in these countries,."
The accord is to be implemented gradually over a period of five years so Israeli carriers would have time to adjust to the changes.
According to the government’s resolution, Lapid and Katz will have 45 days to answer questions raised by cabinet members regarding the agreement. Their answers are to be given at a cabinet meeting during the next month and a half.