Israeli Court Meeting in Effort to Head Off Airport Strike

Israel’s National Labor Court will try today to head off a strike that would cripple the country’s airports.

Airport workers have threatened to walk off the job at 5 a.m. tomorrow in solidarity with Israeli airline employees, who began their own strike yesterday to protest the government’s approval of an aviation agreement with the European Union that they say will hurt local carriers.

In a development that might ease the labor unrest, the Finance Ministry said in an e-mailed statement that it had reached an agreement with Israel’s flagship airline to compensate it for added security costs it might incur because of the accord with the EU. A spokeswoman for El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. had no immediate comment, and the Histadrut labor federation said the strike was not over.

Labor Court President Nili Arad was scheduled to meet this evening with union, government, trade and airline officials in an effort to avert the stoppage, according to an e-mailed decision from the court.

The government says the “Open Skies” agreement will increase competition in air travel, resulting in lower fares and more tourist arrivals. The airline workers say the accord will destroy the Israeli civil aviation industry by opening them to unfair competition.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said there was no reason for El Al to continue its strike following the compensation agreement.

Earlier in the day, he called “Open Skies” a “done deal” and a good agreement for the citizens of Israel, for the Israeli economy, and for tourism.’’

El Al closed up 2.5 percent to 0.544 shekel today, after dropping by more than 13 percent in the two previous trading sessions over the strike.

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