Planes Take Off From B-G Airport Without Luggage as Workers Strike

Employees shut off central luggage conveyer belt; planes unable to unload cargo.

The disruptions caused by the temporary workers' strike at Ben Gurion International Airport worsened Thursday afternoon when airport employees ceased loading luggage onto planes, causing planes to take-off without their passengers' luggage.

At approximately 2:30 P.M. the airport's central luggage conveyer belt was turned off. By 6 P.M. there were 24 airliners waiting to have their cargo unloaded and the airport was in a state of near chaos.

The short-term strike went into effect Wednesday afternoon in protest of plans to layoff 120 temporary airport employees.

Roughly 500 workers are participating in the strike, despite an injunction issued by the Tel Aviv District Labor Court ordering them to resume working.

El Al Airlines announced that all its flights would be delayed by four hours, and Airports Authority called in permanent workers to replace the temporary employees on strike.

Negotiations between airport management and the workers' union over the mass dismissals have been ongoing for two weeks. Notices for dismissal hearings were sent to the 120 employees earlier this week.

"The management decided, unexpectedly and behind our backs, and despite negotiations, to send the dismissal notices to the workers. The management is still acting behind our [the workers] backs, and its purpose is to bypass workers' contracts and block veteran workers from receiving tenure," a member of the labor union said.

Airports' Authority management said in response, that "the dismissal hearings are annual and procedural. Each year we match the manpower we have to the amount needed in the airport. The director-general of the authority, Gabi Ophir, ordered the dismissal notices delayed until after the holidays. In the past two weeks, we have been conducting talks, yet no advancement has been made."