Workers at Israeli airlines strike over Open Skies pact

April 21, 2013 at 8:16 AM
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JERUSALEM, April 21 (UPI) -- Workers at Israeli airlines began an open-ended strike Sunday to protest the government's Open Skies agreement with the European Union, officials said.

Protesters demonstrated Sunday morning outside the prime minister's office where the weekly Cabinet meeting was under way. The agreement with the European Union was approved Sunday afternoon.

The strike by employees of El Al, Israir and Arkia went into effect early Sunday, with domestic and international flights canceled, Israel Radio reported. Flights by non-Israeli airlines continued as scheduled, the Times of Israel said.

In interviews with Israel Radio and television stations during the weekend, Transport Minister Israel Katz said the Open Skies agreement, which he finalized in July last year after three years of negotiations with the European Union, would decrease the prices of tickets and boost tourism to Israel.

Channel 10 reported Saturday that government ministers were unaware of an internal Transport Ministry document warning the agreement could lead to the collapse of El Al.

The Histadrut trade union federation warned the strike may expand to include all public transport, Channel 2 reported Saturday night.

Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene, warning the approval of such an agreement "could produce critical and irrecoverable harm to the aviation industry and even bring about its complete destruction," the Times of Israel said.

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