Airline Workers Block Runway, Shut Down Ben-Gurion Airport

Airline workers staged a demonstration at the Ben-Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv on Thursday, August 19, to express their dissatisfaction with governmental policy, their stressful work environment, and the laying off of thousands of their fellow employees. Workers of the Israel Airports Authority (IAA), which operates the airport, joined the demonstrations in solidarity with the airline workers.

From 10 to 12 am, hundreds of employees of Israel’s major privatized airlines, El Al, Israir and Arkia, halted their work and demonstrated at the airport, Zo Haderech reported. In a statement released by the organizers of the protest, the demonstrators claim that there has been severe employment distress in the Israeli aviation industry since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis: Thousands of aviation workers have been laid off or put on unpaid leave since the crisis began, and many have not yet returned to work and fear for their job security ahead of the Jewish New Year in early September.

Airline workers protest against government inaction at Ben Gurion Airport, August 19, 2021.

Airline workers protest against government inaction at Ben Gurion Airport, August 19, 2021. (Photo: Histadrut)

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered on the tarmac and runway with signs reading: “We are being thrown out of the plane without a parachute”; “If there is no Israeli aviation, foreign companies also won’t land here”; and “The government is abandoning Israeli aviation.”

“Workers are financially crippled; where are the decision-makers?” said crewperson Sharon Ben-Itzhak, chair of the El Al employees committee. The representatives of the unions of airline workers affiliated with the Histadrut announced that they will begin new protest actions this coming week, saying the government had “abandoned workers in the airline industry.” In their statement, the protesters warned that “our intention is to take extreme action if necessary.”