The Jerusalem Labor Court ruled that Sunday that municipal light rail operators must immediately end the strike they began that morning, after causing serious service disruptions in public transportation throughout the city.
The conductors opened their strike in opposition to CityPass’ decision to implement a new schedule that would see a train depart every six minutes for most of the day. The court ruled that the conductors must immediately return to work, and that further hearings on the matter would be held on Sunday afternoon.
In response to the strike, the Transportation Ministry ordered bus service in Jerusalem be increased. Larger buses took to the roads in place of smaller buses, and lines 20, 21, 24 and 27 have been extended to reach the central bus station.
Train operators claim that CityPass’ decision was made without consulting them, and they refuse to operate on the new train schedule, claiming that it constitutes a change in their working conditions, prevents them from taking adequate breaks and represents a safety concern to passengers and pedestrians.
Danny Bonfil, head of the Jerusalem chapter of the Histadrut labor union, said that “the operators refuse to work under these conditions. If their normal schedule is implemented, the trains will resume running within three minutes.”
CityPass issued a statement in response to the strike. “This is nothing more than a tactical act of bullying that severely hinders the city’s daily routine, at the public’s expense.” CityPass management noted that it will take all necessary actions to force the operators tor eturn to work, and submitted an urgent petition to the labor court to end the strike.
CityPass claims that the timing of the strike is not random. “Unfortunately, the conductors and their union are exploiting this time of the year at the expense of passengers,” read the statement. “Recently, management and the conductors union have been engaged in negotiations over a collective work agreement, during which the conductors demanded that their salaries be doubled, and other concessions on top of their already favorable working conditions. Further, the new train schedule doesn’t hinder the drivers at all, and is in fact in their benefit.”
The company added that “it’s inconceivable that the conductors and their union would stop train service throughout the city and hold 140,000 daily passengers as hostages.”
Also on Sunday, construction began on the Tel Aviv light rail system, which is expected to cause heavy traffic jams throughout central Israel, from Netanya to Ashdod.