Part of the reason there are great opportunities to work at airports is because of our increased appetite for flying. Cheap flights allows us to take carefree weekend trips to new cities. But sometimes we need to travel to maintain connections with our families. The last time I flew to Israel though I thought I wouldn’t make it. We were held in an artificial line at the Toronto airport in order to ease the burden on the check-in crew who weren’t able to handle the excess travelers. At least that’s what they told us. We were there until the last moment, and I really had to run through security to make sure we would arrive to our gate without a hitch. But what happened no doubt caused the shops in the airport to lose out on duty free earnings. No one had time to shop.
My mother called it a ruse, as the real reason (she said) was because the baggage handlers had gone on strike (like what happened in Israel on Sunday) and the airlines had to slow down feeding the conveyor belts. Whatever the reason, after paying thousands of dollars for our flights we felt jilted.
But of course delays are not restricted to large airports like Pearson or JFK. Even small airports like in Israel suffer delays when laborers go on strike damaging all the great inroads the country has done to boost tourism. You can feel it on the streets. There are hundreds of new tourists, maybe thousands, walking the streets of Jaffa every day. Some of them are even getting lost in my neighborhood, which is really not offering tourist attractions. Low-cost airline service to Israel is working.
On Sunday, however, workers at Ben Gurion Airport just decided to take matters into their own hands and not show up, ruining key logistics needed for a smooth and secure airport. Imagine arriving to Israel from Europe, a short flight away, and then waiting 3 hours to get your bathing suit? If you got struck in Israel or Canada for delays of any kind you can try your airline to see how you can get compensation for flight delays. Some international rules apply, but beware the small print of the budget airlines.
Additional staff are hired every year in Israel to handle the summer holidays and later the Jewish holidays. They are hired on contract knowing they will be fired in the fall, after high holiday season. Still they striked.
Collective bargaining power used in the ’80s was effective for union workers at companies like General Motors where my father worked, but ultimately the unionized mentality created a negative aura of the us (the peons) versus the them (the management). Ultimately after the strikes, business at GM did return as usual, but with pay hikes and such, but motivation or love for work among employees in unions didn’t improve after conditions or threats wet met. Employees still continued to sabotage and steal time from their workplace. Since GM has moved much of their blue collar work (no surprise) to Mexico where there are no unions.
We need a new plan. A new way that employees, even those doing menial tasks like baggage handling and serving at restaurants, can feel justly rewarded for their work. In Switzerland there is no minimum wage set and still the average minimum is above $25 USD, so that even waitresses and waiters know they can make a decent income and therefore enjoy what they do without feeling stressed about moving onto another job. Another option is employee-owned companies, like Johnny’s Selected Seeds in the United States, a $47 million company with the happiest employees I’ve ever met. This is a growing trend. Where every employee owns a part of the pie. Imagine if baggage handlers owned a small part of the company that hired them? They surely wouldn’t strike in this case. And it would make travelling to Israel a much better experience.