The statement was made shortly after the Histadrut Labor Federation announced a labor dispute between the airlines El Al, Arkia and Israir and the government over the initial decision to implement the Open Skies policy, which would reduce restrictions on flights between EU countries and Israel, without negotiating the issue with the employees first.
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The delay in the deal nixes an anticipated drop in flights prices. The Transportation Ministry claims that Katz' decision to freeze the deal is unrelated to the labor dispute.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Katz has met with airline managers and heard their concerns over the deal, which is expected to compromise their profits. He said that he intends to promote the deal in order to increase competition, reduce flight prices and boost tourism "while protecting the prominence of Israeli airlines."
He added that before the agreement can be signed, regulations that discriminate against Israeli airlines must be addressed in order to allow the companies to compete with their European counterparts on equal terms.
Airlines want fair competition
The Histadrut opposed the signing of the deal without consulting with the employees, estimating that the policy would affect the 7,000 airline employees and the 25,000 workers whose jobs are facilitated by the industry.
"The deal opens the skies to European competitors while putting the Israeli companies at an inferior position," the labor federation said.
"We have announced a labor dispute in order to… make the Israeli government understand that the deal, in its current version, will irreparably hurt the civilian aviation sector in Israel, and will cause thousands of workers to lose their jobs," El Al employee union head Asher Edri told Ynet.
"The Israeli aviation industry won't be able to fairly compete with the foreign airlines, which will turn into a destructive monopoly with 3,000 planes, compared to the 45 planes that we have.
"We don't oppose the deal or having competition, we only ask that fair rules are established," he added.