Workers shut down railway station to protest layoffs
Haaretz: September 06, 2006
By Sharon Kedmi
A protest by Israel Railways employees yesterday prevented the opening of the Hod Hasharon-Kfar Sava station this week. Workers cited two reasons for the disruption: management's intention to carry out an early retirement program for 200 employees and its plan to establish a subsidiary to handle freight.
Israel Railways revenue from transporting freight is around NIS 150 million annually, which experts believe reflects only 20 percent of the potential market.
The early retirement plan would affect an eighth of the 1,600-strong work force. Israel Railways CEO Ofer Linczewski informed Government Companies Authority director Eyal Gabbay and Finance Ministry budget director Eli Cohen of the decision. The plan would meet the goals of streamlining the company in the framework of its agreement to receive government subsidies; it would replace employees in positions made obsolete by technological changes.
An early retirement plan has been around for years but never got off the ground, because of objections by the traditionally strong workers union.
The new plan offers early access to pensions and increased severance pay. Linczewski noted to Gabbay and Cohen that few workers took advantage of the plan because it was not attractive and a suit had been filed against management and the state regarding the program.
Linczewski proposes to upgrade the plan to include increasing a transition grant from 6 months to 15 months and increasing severance up to 15 months. The company estimates it can fund this plan and save approximately NIS 25 million annually.
The Hod Hasharon-Kfar Sava station, where renovations were completed last week, lies on the Tel Aviv-Rosh Ha'ayin line.
Israel Railways commented that its employees took a series of sanctions in reaction to management plans to restructure the organization. The matter is in negotiations, the company related, and should be solved in the coming days.