Israeli airport strike paralyzes flights, strands travelers
Israel Aviation Authority (IAA) workers' committees at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv announced a wildcat strike Monday morning.
The strike action went into effect at about local time 9 a.m. ( 0700 GMT) when overnight wage and pension talks broke down, throwing flight schedules into turmoil and stranding thousands of passengers in the main terminal, Xinhua reported.
All takeoffs are canceled, and IAA crew are not carrying out security checks or transferring baggage to and from flights, Israel Army radio reported.
The IAA wants management to guarantee that their pension funds will remain untouched, according to spokesmen.
The workers had originally planned the strike for last Thursday, during the Jewish Rosh Hashana New Year. However, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz convinced them to delay carrying out strike threats in order to allow travelers to return for the two-day holiday.
The Israel Airports Authority website crashed with two hours of the strike on Monday, apparently from overload as passengers try to figure out how to reschedule flights for the interim.
Some frustrated returning passengers on Monday climbed on the baggage return carrels, according to radio reports. Police special forces were called in to restore order, the reports said.
Workers "will not allow the pensions to be harmed in any way. We have been trying to negotiate a solution for over two years, but the IAA is dragging its feet and endangering the workers pension funds," local news site Ynet quoted workers' union chief Pinhas Idam as saying.
"I hope both the IAA and the Treasury come to their senses and devise a solution in order to spare the traveling public any distress," Idam added.
Negotiations are continuing as of this report, but the strike continues.