Israel: Tel-Aviv rail redundancies protest

A countrywide surge in class struggle

Israel is going through an immense surge in class struggle, with daily labour disputes, slowdowns, strikes, protests, and blocking of factories. On 19 June, on the same day that truck and cab drivers blocked main roads in the country against the soaring price of fuel, the CWI in Israel (Maavak Sotzyalisti) organized a protest against mass redundancies planned by ‘Israel Train’. The redundancies are part of the privatization process of the Israeli rail system, which includes replacing better paid and union organized jobs with lower paid, contract jobs. The protest focused on the attempts by management of Israel Train, with the consent of a highly corrupt union leadership, to sack a militant workers’ leader, Aharon Cohen, who works at a southern station, in Dimona, a poor town which sits near a nuclear reactor.

Maavak Sotzyalisti at the protest

The protest was held in Tel-Aviv, during a management hearing on the workers’ leader. Hours before the hearing and protest, rank and file workers’ pressure was put on management and the union leaders. This included a threat by the main Workers Committees, from the south of Israel, to leave the General Histadrut (the main trade union federation). The State Comptroller issued an order freezing all sacking procedures on the trains, until further investigation of the corruption scandals concerning management and the National Workers Committee, which were cited in a report by the Comptroller’s a few weeks ago. The Tel-Aviv hearing still went ahead, and so did the protest.

Protest loud and clear

Although the protest was held in the middle of a working day, around 30 people were able to take part, at short notice. The protesters included the Chairman of the Workers Committee of the ‘Haaretz’ daily newspaper, representatives from a newly founded Workers Committee at ‘Cinema City’ entertainment, the former chairman of the Workers Committee at the Israeli Broadcast Agency, and supporters and members of the CWI in Israel.

The protest was loud. Even those at the Hearing could not avoid our shouts. We said: "No to the sacking of Aharon Cohen; No to the sacking of workers in Dimona; NO to the sacking of train workers".

Passersby showed great interest and sympathy in our protest. We demanded: "Raise wages for all rail workers”; "Collective contracts for everyone – We don’t want manpower agencies"; "We won’t allow the sale of trains"; "`Eyni [unions federation Chairman] agrees to privatizations and redundancies and betrays workers"; "Prices are rising, wages go down”; `Eyni is a traitor – Resign!".

Maavak Sotzyalisti at the protest

The protest marched determinedly between the central Tel-Aviv train station entrance, to the gates of the management offices. The gates were shut in our face, and the police called, but it made no difference to the effectiveness of the protest.

Towards the end of the protest, a bus stopped nearby, and the driver yelled in his public-announcements speaker: "Way to go! You all are right, we’re with you, there’s a need to start fighting". The workers in that bus company are engaged in a lengthy struggle over their wages!

Tel-Aviv rail redundancies protest 3

Outside the central rail station

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