The Histadrut Labor Federation announced Monday evening the end of the strike action that has left outgoing flights from Israel paralyzed in the last two days. Earlier in the day, the Treasury announced a deal with El Al guaranteeing to fund the company's security expenses, which are a consequence of Israel's sensitive security situation.
Workers at Israel's three main airline carriers, El Al, Arkia and Israir launched an open-ended strike at 5 am Sunday by grounding the airlines' fleets in protest of the government's plans to ratify an 'open skies' deal with the European Union they see as a threat to their employees' jobs.
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"El Al representatives have come to terms with the fact that 'open skies' is reality," read a statement by the Finance Ministry.
The State currently funds 60% of the Israeli airlines' security expenses, which amount to NIS 500 million ($137 million) annually.
Ben-Gurion Airport, Monday (Photo: Benny Doutsh)
Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini commented on the termination of the Israeli airlines' strike, saying the government came to its senses and realized domestic airline carriers are in the national interest.
"It's a pity we had to strike, to rally and to put thousands of families through real anxiety to achieve a deal we could have reached through negotiation," he said.
The agreement should see the ministry increasing its participation in Israeli carriers' security bills to 97.5 %, whereas the companies are committed to undergoing a streamlining that should help them further cut the costs.
According to prior agreements between the Finance Ministry and the airlines, the State was to increase the funding to 80% (an increase of NIS 100 million, or $28 million, a year) if the airlines accepted the "open skies" deal.
Photo: Benny Doutsh
Today the State sponsors 60 % of the security bills of El Al, which provides security services to the other two Israeli carrier companies, Arkia and Israir.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid hailed the agreement, saying "Now there is no impediment to go ahead with the flights and end the strike." Earlier the minister said the financial problems faced by Israeli carriers stem from the need for hightened security in Israeli flights, and can be dealt with.
The 'open skies' agreement will allow all EU airlines to operate direct flights from Europe to Israel, and all Israeli airlines to fly to EU destinations. The respective workers unions for El Al, Arkia and Israir are claiming this will destroy Israeli airlines and and will lead to major redundancies.
Billie Frenkel contributed to the report
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