TEL AVIV (Oct. 20)
El Al took drastic measures yesterday to reduce its expenditures in the face of a wildcat strike by workshop employes that has grounded the airline since Thursday. The company said the measures would remain in effect as long as conditions prevent the uninterrupted, smooth operation of El Al’s services. They included letters of dismissal sent yesterday afternoon to 100 temporary employes, the fur-laughing of 1000 other employes, the recall of all air crews now abroad and suspension of the company’s subsidy to its local canteen.
The measures were announced following a meeting between Transport Minister Gad Yaacobi and El Al managing director Mordechai Ben Ari at which the possibility was raised of closing down the airline altogether. The company is reportedly considering chartering, its grounded fleet of 13 jets to other carriers. The strike, which began at 2 p.m. local time Thursday without advance warning has been denounced by the government. Histadrut issued a strongly-worded call to the strikers to return to their jobs.
Maintenance workers who joined the workshop employes in their strike decided to return to work last night, but as long as the workshops are closed the airline remains grounded. Several back to work orders were issued yesterday in the hope that limited service could be restored. The employes who responded showed up at Ben Gurion Airport wearing signs that said “I am a forced laborer.” Other strikers laid down on the tarmac to block planes from taking off.
The latest strike involving Israel’s national air line which has been plagued by labor troubles for more than a year is over wage scales and charges by the workers that management violated contract provisions on promotions. El Al denied the charges and produced signed contracts to support its denial.
Meanwhile, labor strife affecting foreign airlines made it more difficult for El Al to shift its passengers to other carriers. Air France has suspended flights to Israel because of its own strike, and Alitalia is also embroiled in a labor dispute. Nevertheless, El Al has managed to find seats for most of its 9000 passengers stranded by the strike, including several thousand Hadassah members who arrived in Israel from the U.S., to participate in the dedication of the Hadassah center on Mt Scopus.