The right to strike is a basic one in a democratic country such as Israel. But, in recent years, this right was used by labour unions in a way that raises many questions.
The worst examples are the frequent strikes or slowdowns at Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv. Any strike or slowdown at the airport, the only one in Israel that serves scheduled airlines, cuts off the country from the world.
The way the unions have used that pressure point went too far, by any democratic standard
Now the recently formed government plans to propose legislation to effectively bar institutions that provide essential services from calling or joining a general strike. It would limit their right to strike to cases involving wage disputes, and impose mandatory arbitration proceedings for any labour or wage dispute.
Essential service institutions include Ben Gurion International airport, the Mekorot national water company, the Israel Electric Corporation and the Israel Ports Company.
Sources in the finance ministry denied reports suggesting the proposed strike prevention bill included a scheme to significantly reduce – and maybe even revoke – the labour courts’ authority.
The labour court is a tool that has been used, but in many cases did not prevent strikes that caused big losses and left thousands of passengers stranded in Israel and abroad.
The proposed law is a good idea. It should be tailored to keep the right to strike but, at the same time, the right of the people to have an essential service such as air travel.