The government is drawing up plans in the event that attempts to reform Israel’s
ports lead to a strike, Transportation Minister Israel Katz said on Sunday, as
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged his commitment to the
The main portion of the plan is to build a private port to
compete with the existing ones, in hopes that the competition will provide
businesses with cheaper, more efficient alternatives.
“We are prepared to
do this in cooperation with the employees. In the event that does not work,
we’ll do it unilaterally,” Katz said in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday
“The program will reduce reckless strikes of the ports and the
Should the ports respond with strikes, Katz said, the
government was preparing several alternatives to fill their roles.
will adopt all possible measures to save the ports, including the possibility of
foreign companies operating them. At the same time, we will advance fast-track
legislation on a mandatory arbitration and essential services law, which will
prevent strikes in essential services to the economy, including the ports
Speaking at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said the
plan would lower the cost of living.
“This plan has very major
consequences regarding the cost of living in Israel because 90% of our imports
and exports, and a considerable portion of our GDP, passes through the ports in
one way or another,” he said, adding that “efficiency or the lack thereof at the
ports is something that every citizen feels in his pocket.”
In laying out
concrete plans to fight port strikes, Katz undermined media reports saying that
the government was planning to call in the IDF to act as “scabs,” should the
port workers attempt to shutter shipping.
Minister Amir Peretz, a former Histadrut labor federation chairman, denounced
the reports in Sunday morning’s cabinet meeting.
“Whoever is responsible
for [the idea] does not understand democracy and does not understand the
abilities and job of the IDF,” Peretz said. “All of these statements are
inflammatory and unnecessary.”
At the same time, Peretz added that there
needs to be broad reforms in the ports.
Labor faction chairman Isaac
Herzog compared Netanyahu to dictators who send mercenaries to quell
“Bringing the army in to the ports shows a total loss of
control by the prime minister and the government,” Herzog said.
Netanyahu’s war demagoguery and the attempt to light the ports and their workers
on fire, the Histadrut stands sane and responsible and willing to cooperate with
reasonable economic policies.”
According to Herzog, reforms will not be
possible without cooperation from the Histadrut.
“Incitement against the
workers will bring anger in the streets, labor conflicts, strikes and a waste of
taxpayers’ money,” he added.
On Friday, Antitrust Authority commissioner
David Gilo announced plans to classify the ports as an oligopoly, eliciting
praise from Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett. The classification would
bar existing port operators from opening new ports or platforms at existing
ports, thus opening the market for new competition.
“This is a courageous
step of the utmost importance,” Bennett wrote on his Facebook
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Bennett said, “The port
has been on an ‘Italian strike’ for one out of every six days in recent years,”
referring to a barebones slowdown in which workers perform only the bare minimum
of necessary work.
“Someone has to pay the price for this inefficiency,
and it’s been the Israeli public,” he added.
Alon Hassan, head of the
port in Ashdod, responded to Bennett with a Facebook post of his own on Sunday,
accusing him of “pandering to the capitalists, your millionaire friends and
giving them a chance to earn more.”
The port workers, he warned, harbored
“the most solidarity there is,” and were always prepared to go on strike for the
cause of the working man.
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