Airport Strike Averted after Wage Agreement Extended for 2 Months

A strike action at Ben-Gurion Airport was averted on Sunday evening, June 14, after the Israel Airports Authority (IAA) workers union reached an agreement over wages with the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transportation. Under the agreement, current wage arrangements for IAA employees will be extended by an additional two months – until September 1, 2020 – to ensure greater job security within the ailing aviation sector. Some 2,500 IAA employees currently on unpaid leave were set to stop receiving unemployment benefits on July 1.

The departures terminal at Ben-Gurion Airport, earlier this month

The departures terminal at Ben-Gurion Airport, earlier this month (Photo: IAA)

Earlier this month, the union temporarily halted the departure and arrival of all flights at Ben-Gurion Airport in protest against the government’s failure to renew the flow of international air travel and enable the entry of foreign nationals into the country. The union said it was immediately “stopping takeoffs and landings” at Israel’s primary airport and that “airplanes currently in the air will have to land at secondary airports according to their alternate routes.” The union’s move, which would have effectively shut down most air travel to the country, came a day after three airlines restarted scheduled services to Israel that were halted due to the coronavirus outbreak.

While the ban on foreign national entry remains open-ended, other than cases deemed exceptional by the Foreign Ministry, Ben-Gurion Airport informed international airlines last week that the prohibition had been extended from June 15 to July 1. In addition to acceding to the union’s demands, the IAA also agreed to accelerate critical infrastructure projects and to take loans to help support its activity.

According to the data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), approximately 2,300 visitors entered Israel with either a tourist or a temporary residence visa, including students, during the month of May, representing a drop of more than 99% drop from about 466,000 visitors who arrived in May 2019 – including 440,000 tourists. A similarly dramatic drop was also witnessed in the number of departures in May, with only 8,300 trips abroad recorded, only 1.2% of the 656,000 Israeli citizens who traveled abroad in May 2019. Among those who departed the country last month were 600 who live permanently abroad.