The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) has informed 80 of the most senior air marshals under its jurisdiction that they would be fired this coming May, sparking outrage among the air marshals, who say they are being fired just so they can’t claim basic social security rights, including not being limited to a nine-year tenure.
The struggle by the ISA’s airport security personnel began a few years ago, when they decided to take the ISA to labor court, where their lawsuit was denied. The High Court of Justice also denied another petition in 2010, declaring that the air marshals weren’t eligible for tenure.
“The air marshals are like a foreign being in the ISA. All these years we’ve sat in silence and every year they’ve renewed our contracts without a problem, even beyond nine years,” said one air marshal. “All of a sudden Golem has turned against his creator and has asked for his rights,” he continued, “so now they are reacting out of spite and limiting us to nine years.” The air marshal also said that unlike other airline workers, his colleagues can’t strike and ground flights, “and there are those who take advantage of that.”
Attorney Eyal Sternberg from the office of Eitan-Mehulal and Sadot, which represents the air marshals, said Monday, “The state needs to treat the best of its sons more fairly. These are people who tied their fates to the security of the state for 20, sometimes 30 years, and they shouldn’t be fired casually.”
The ISA responded by saying it “acts according to the employment policy law passed by the Knesset … according to which contracts of workers, who gained employment after the Knesset passed the law, were supposed to have ended already.”
The ISA claimed in a statement that in order to allow the air marshals reasonable and appropriate time to prepare for new employment, it had extended their contracts for an additional three months, set to expire at the end of May, 2012. “Any claim of ‘vengefulness’ by the Shin Bet or any other baseless reason is completely unfounded,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, chaired by MK Haim Katz (Likud), held a heated discussion on Monday following a labor dispute declared by government minister bodyguards.
Attorney Betty Metzer-Levi, VP for trade unions at Israel’s Labor Federation (Histadrut), presented the bodyguard’s complaints before the Committee, among them: employment practices that ignore the Work and Rest Hours Law, including 12 shifts a month when one shift can last 70 straight hours of work at a payment rate of 22 shekels an hour (about $ 5.76).
An official at the Finance Ministry’s Accountant General Division disagreed, saying, “We determined the minimum wage for the employees in the official tender, which is NIS 12,000 a month in addition to social security allocations. We’re taking about close to NIS 30 an hour.”
According to the official, for overtime the bodyguards earn between NIS 60 and NIS 80 an hour.