General Strike at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport Ends After Day of Chaos

Israel Airports Authority employees union calls off strike after agreement reached on transfer of pensions into a trust fund.

The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) employees union ended a strike that it declared earlier on Monday at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport after the government reached an agreement on pension demands, officials said.

Ben-Gurion Airport strike September 13, 2010 Nir Kafri
Nir Kafri

The strike, at Israel's main international airport, halted all outgoing flights during one of the busiest holiday periods of the year.

In a statement, the Finance Ministry said an agreement had been reached with the workers on the transfer of pension funds into a trust fund, their main demand.

"I am glad we were able to reduce the harm and suffering to the citizens of Israel," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said, welcoming the agreement.

The strike lasted for eight hours and also delayed the unloading of baggage from incoming flights. It was expected to take several hours before operations at the airport return to normal.

The strike interfered with the plans of thousands of  passengers who were set to depart or arrive at the airport on Monday.

Ben Gurion Airport Nir Keidar
Nir Keidar

Some of the hundreds of Breslav Hasidim returning from pilgrimage to Ukraine on Monday caused a disturbance in the baggage claims area, banging on small drums, after learning they would not be able to receive their luggage due to the strike.

Police increased their presence at the airport to avoid further disturbances.

On Saturday, IAA management, the general workers' union and the Histadrut labor federation, which represents organized labor in Israel, began negotiations. The first round of talks ended unsuccessfully on Sunday at the office of Yaakov Ganot, General Manager of the Ministry of Transport and Road Safety.

On Monday morning, another attempt to resolve the issue and prevent the strike proved unfruitful.

Last Tuesday intensive negotiations prevented a strike during the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which would have paralyzed flight transportation to Israel and would have affected over 100,000 travellers.