On Thursday morning, aviation workers at Ben Gurion Airport staged a large protest on the runways, holding signs on which were written, “Blue & White aviation instead of foreign aviation,” “They’re throwing us out of the planes without a parachute,” “The government is abandoning Israeli aviation,” “Safety net now,” and “We’re the first in times of war, the last in times of coronavirus.”
Hundreds of employees from El Al, Arkia, and Israir took part in the demonstration, as well as several organizations of ground support workers, all protesting the difficult situation they find themselves in due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic and the regulations imposed by government in order to contain it.
The demonstration was organized by the Transport Workers’ Union, headed by Avi Edri. Israel Airports Authority (IAA) workers also joined the protest as a show of solidarity with aviation workers, who are the group hardest hit by coronavirus regulations for the past year and a half. Thousands of aviation workers have been sent on unpaid leave during this time, and many of them have yet to return to work and now fear for their job security.
One local union leader, Moshe Arbeli, told media that: “My heart is weeping. All those who put us in this situation should be ashamed of themselves – first and foremost the Israeli government which is responsible for everything that happens here.”
Amichai Stinger, a union branch leader, said, “We have been holding up for a year and a half, but how much longer can we go on like this? We need help.”
The head of the El Al workers’ committee, Sharon Ben Yitzhak, said, “We are in real danger of breaking down entirely. They have simply abandoned us. It looks like the Israeli government has decided that they don’t need Blue & White [i.e. Israeli] aviation companies: 2,000 El Al employees have lost their jobs, and each and every home is an entire world. El Al and the other Israeli companies aren’t like an accordion that you can open and close whenever you want. There are no time-outs in the aviation industry. I would like to thank the Trades Union Association which is our home, the place we can fall back on, Histadrut head Arnon Bar-David who has been at our side 24 hours a day, and also Avi Edri, for all his support.”