Israeli Rail Union Leader Can Return to Job

Judge declares displacement of rail worker union chief illegal.

The Haifa Labor Court on Friday ordered Israel Railways to let the deposed national chairwoman of the company's workers' committee return to her office at the railroad's premises.

In addition to her role representing the railroad's employees, Gila Edrei worked as a fuel and lubricant coordinator for Israel Railways. She was dismissed as the head of the workers' committee about a week ago by the Histadrut labor federation, and has since joined forces with a rival labor federation, Koach La'ovdim, known in English as the Democratic Workers' Organization.

At the court hearing Friday, Judge Ofra Verbner accepted the position of Edrei, Koach La'ovdim and the head of the railroad workers' northern district, Shai Tal, that the railroad's action was illegal. Tal had also been barred from his workplace.

The judge agreed that the move was carried out to prevent workers from organizing through Koach La'ovdim instead of the Histadrut.

This afternoon the National Labor Court will consider a request that Koach La'ovdim be recognized as the official representative of Israel Railways' employees. Koach La'ovdim's organizational secretary, Shai Cohen, says his federation has submitted enough membership applications to the court to prove that more than half the 2,000 railroad employees are members of the group.

The Histadrut is expected to cast doubt on Koach La'ovdim's claim that it represents a majority of the workers, which would give the alternative union official status as the workers' representative.

Edrei and Tal were dismissed from their union positions by the Histadrut on the contention that they were violent at labor court hearings and failed to cooperate with the Histadrut in forging a new collective agreement with Israel Railways.