Photo Credit: Hana Levi Julian
Ben Gurion International Airport, Terminal 3

El Al airline pilots were ordered Monday by Judge Ofira Dagan-Thuchmacher at the Tel Aviv District Labor Court to go back to work immediately.

The pilots refused to fly — again — in a wildcat strike this past weekend.

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Pilots’ union head Nir Tzuk asked members of his union to respect the decision and return to work.

The judge censured both sides for their behavior, and their indifference to the public.

The union said in a statement that El Al’s management had thought it could “subdue the workers by force… El Al’s management doesn’t understand that in a world where there’s a shortage of pilots, their behavior will leave them without pilots.”

However, a number of exasperated travel agents contacted by JewishPress.com in an informal poll on Monday warned the airline stands to lose considerable market share as a result of the “shenanigans” of the pilots, as one agent put it.

“The airline is becoming increasingly unreliable,” said a Tel Aviv agent who requested anonymity. “I can’t tell you what a mess it was over the weekend. Passengers were told they’d get their money back, but their flights were just canceled at the last minute and that was that. No alternatives, nothing. What could I tell my clients, some of them people I’ve worked with for years? I’m not willing to risk my top business customers on El Al again. No way.”

The back-to-work order followed a night-long marathon negotiation session mediated by Avi Nissenkorn, head of the Histadrut Labor Federation. It came after the pilots’ union and El Al management failed to reach an agreement on a wage dispute.

The dispute centers on the wage agreement that scales down the salaries of the pilots to just 34 percent of their full wages from ages 65 to 67. The problem has to do with the fact that international regulations prohibit pilots from flying international routes after age 65. However, Israeli pilots don’t begin to receive a pension until age 67, the nation’s official retirement age.

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