Israel’s national trade union federation has called the behaviour of union leadership at embattled national flag carrier El Al a “blatant red line” after what has been described as a “chair-throwing melee” during a meeting between airline management, the union and pilot representatives. The debt-laden carrier is currently seeking a multi-million dollar bailout from the Israeli government and the vast majority of its 6,000 strong workforce have been on unpaid leave since March.
The Histadrut said it would immediately suspend all El Al union council members after the incident on Sunday which occurred at the airline’s head office in Tel Aviv. According to Hebrew news site Ynet, work council leaders crashed a meeting between airline managers and pilot representatives in an attempt to halt negotiations after rumours started circulating that an agreement had been reached to rehire pilots.
The situation is said to have quickly escalated and during the standoff office chairs were thrown across the meeting room and coffee spilt. Video of the aftermath apparently shows chairs atop desks from where they have been hurled across the room.
“Needless to say, this behaviour and sabotage of negotiations with management harms all employees of the company, which is at a critical crosswords,” a letter from the Histadrut setting out the reasons for the immediate suspension explained.
Union leaders accused the Histadrut and pilots of “bullying behaviour” following the suspension.
The Corona crisis and quarantine restrictions imposed by the Israeli government has had a devastating impact on the already loss-making El Al’s business. The airline is attempting to secure a USD $400 million State bailout but talks have stumbled on several occasions.
While passenger flights have been indefinitely suspended, El Al has been able to ramp up cargo-only flights and has reached an agreement to bring back around 50 per cent of its pilot workforce. No agreement has been reached on the future of the airline’s other employees.
Critics claim El Al must embark on a radical restructuring if it is to expect a taxpayer funded bailout citing a high employee to passenger ratio and larger than market rate wages as just a couple of issues that need to be urgently addressed. El Al has also come under fire for refusing to fly over the Sabbath, instead grounding its planes for nearly two days every week.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.