Thousands of bus drivers were to strike on Friday from 10 a.m. to noon in an escalating protest of their salaries and against Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, who has allegedly refused to meet their representatives.
The strike, announced by the National Workers’ Union, may cause significant traffic disruptions around the time when parents head out to take their children home from school and kindergarten.
The strike will stop all intracity bus lines in Netanya, Ashdod, Petah Tikva, Rosh Ha’ayin, Yavne, Gan Yavne, Beersheba, Ariel, and the Samaria Regional Council. It will also halt many inter-city buses, including between Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak, Modiin Illit, and Ben Gurion Airport.
The Organization of Israeli Bus Drivers said there is a shortage of 5,000 drivers, and drivers are working double shifts to earn satisfactory wages. It also said many drivers suffer attacks and abuse from passengers, an issue that is not being addressed.
The organization threatened to expand the strikes until Michaeli “wakes up” and attends to their demands. The Labor Court has approved multiple strikes to go ahead in the future.
“Transportation Minister Meirav Michaeli continues to abandon us and is not prepared to meet with us in order to improve our wages and is not concerned for our safety and wellbeing,” the workers’ union told the Labor Court.
“Unfortunately, the minister did not respond to the pleas of drivers to meet with them and solve their grievances,” the union charged.
Raed Mashaal, chair of the Elektra Afikim Transport Workers Committee, said he was “proud to see more drivers joining our struggle” and griped that the police and public were disinterested in cases of abuse against bus drivers.
“When people attack doctors the entire state cries for justice. But when they attack a poor driver, how can it be that it becomes a daily routine?”
Mashaal added that drivers would continue to strike “until the country understands that without us there is no public transportation.”
Bus drivers have organized strikes each Monday throughout the country for almost two weeks. The latest strike appears to be an expansion of their dispute.