Employees of Israel's three main airlines - El Al, Arkia and Israir - have started a strike early Sunday morning, in protest of the Israeli Government's plans to ratify an open skies agreement with EU, which the employees regard as a threat to their jobs.
The three airlines employees said they shut down operations, unless the government backs off its plan to approve an agreement that would open the carriers to heavier competition from Europe.
Avi Edri, the Chairman of the Israeli transport workers' union at the Histadrut Labour Federation, said the strike's aim is to save thousands of jobs that were at risk if Israeli airlines had to compete with more European carriers.
Transport minister Katz urged the unions to accept the deal, which is being discussed with European Union countries.
Sources in the Transportation Ministry said that Open Skies will encourage competition among airlines flying to Israel by removing regulatory restrictions and bureaucratic barriers. As a result, European airlines are expected to increase the number of flights to and from Israel.
Katz defended the agreement, saying it would “enable airline prices to be lowered for Israeli citizens.” He added that the agreement is also “good for the country because it will bring a lot of tourists… and tourists add many jobs.”