Air Traffic Sanctions to Take Off Today

Disruptions in international air traffic to and from Israel are expected, starting today, after workers of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) decided to protest what they called unilateral organizational changes by management. The workers say that the changes will affect their wages and status.

The workers convened yesterday at midday, during regular working hours at Ben-Gurion International Airport, and decided to take steps, beginning with sanctions and possibly escalating to a full-blown strike.

The workers will not approve non-scheduled flights, which means that additional flights to relieve congestion or extra charter flights will not be able to land. CAA employees will not inspect planes, which means that jets due for inspection will be grounded. Also, Israel Aircraft Industries projects that depend on various approvals from the CAA could also be frozen, and licensing of pilots and technicians will be frozen.

At the same time El Al employees are planning to declare a labor dispute, to protest the management's intention to cancel their collective bargaining agreement. So far about 80 percent of employees have voted on the question of whether to declare a dispute, according to an internal estimate of the workers' representatives TheMarker obtained yesterday.

The importance of the number is that more than the 70 percent of the 6,000 required to request the sanctions have already voted, and the workers are now allowed to ask the Histadrut to declare an official labor dispute. El Al workers will then be required to wait the mandatory 14-day cooling-off period before they can undertake sanctions.

However, employees have decided to extend the voting period to allow the many workers who are usually abroad to vote, too. The union wants to reach at least a 90 percent rate of support, with all workers voting and signing the sealed envelopes to make sure that management has no basis for challenging the vote in court.