Israelis traveling on many of the bus lines on Monday will be treated to free rides – courtesy of their bus driver's union. Riders on routes in a host of cities throughout Israel, including, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Ofakim, Elad, and areas in and around Jerusalem, as well as on many intercity routes between Jerusalem, Beersheva, and Bnei Brak, will be allowed to get on the bus without paying.
The “freebie” is one way for drivers of Egged Transportation (Ta'avurah) to show their dissatisfaction with what they say is management's failure to negotiate seriously on a new contract. “We are making a point with this action,” said a union representative.
“We are trying to prevent passengers being used as a bargaining chip in these negotiations. Because of the low salaries it is hard for the company to find drivers, and the passengers suffer from this lack of service,” the representative said.
Egged Transportation, which employs 760 drivers, is the third largest bus company of the 15 operating in Israel. Responding to the protest action, the company said that it was the union that was failing to negotiate and act in good faith. “We call on the union to return to the negotiating table and to avoid actions that will hurt the company and its workers. We hope that the union will act responsibly and prevent changes that will negatively affect tens of thousands of people.”