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El Al Flight Crews Threaten a Strike Beginning Oct. 24

The flight crews of El Al have threatened to strike beginning Oct. 24 unless the government acts to legalize a long-standing informal arrangement that virtually eliminates income tax payments on the foreign currency portion of their salaries. The arrangement has been questioned by Likud MK Akiva Noff who has asked the Supreme Court for an order nisi on the tax authorities to show cause why air crews pay proportionately smaller taxes on their income than other employes.

Since Noff’s challenge, the El Al management and board of directors has been deluged with letters from pilots, flight engineers and navigators who threaten to void immediately their contracts which expire in 1976 unless the airline and the treasury formalize their present tax arrangements.

The air crews, who spend part of each month abroad, are paid in part in foreign currency. For tax purposes, their wages are calculated on the basis of one Pound Sterling for one Israeli Pound although the international rate of exchange is IL 10 to one Pound Sterling. The result is that the flight crews’ taxes are negligible. Noff claims the arrangement is inequitable and smacks of favoritism.

Should the strike materialize. El Al would be grounded for the second time in less than a month. Last month the carrier’s schedules were disrupted for nearly a week by a wildcat strike of mechanics and ground maintenance crews. A strike this month by flight crews may also involve Israel’s merchant marine because of the joint committee established recently between flight personnel and ships’ officers.

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