The High Court of Justice on Thursday denied an appeal by the state over building two new private ports, upholding a National Labor Court decision to temporarily suspend them.
Earlier in the month, the Labor Court had ruled that the tenders should be suspended while the state negotiated with the Histadrut Labor Federation, though it denied the union the right to strike until at least September 2, when it would evaluate their progress. The High Court said that it would also evaluate the situation at that date.
Building private port tenders is part of a government plan to reform the ports by introducing competition, though the Histadrut maintains that such reforms will materially harm the port workers. The state worried that pulling major public tenders would dissuade companies from spending resources on applying for the tenders, and ultimately damaging Israel's economy.
Histadrut lawyer Shai Taken welcomed the decision, saying the state had no justification in trying to upend the labor court, calling the appeal out of place. "We hope that at this stage the state will respect and act according to the court's decision and conduct real negotiations in an attempt to solve the differences, as it should have done in the first place," Taken said.
In a joint statement, the Finance and Transportation Ministries said they will continue to promote the establishment of new, private ports to boost competition, "which will reduce the cost of living and develop Israel's international trade."
According to Globes, the National Labor Court criticized the state for acting in "bad faith," and said that its reform efforts had undermined a draft agreement reached with the Histadrut over the Ashdod Port workers six months prior. The agreement would have promised to protect the Port's financial stability and its workers conditions through reforms.
Even before the tenders were issued in July, the government had harsh words for the Histadrut, promising that it would not be cowed in attempts to reform the economy.
“I am not prepared to accept this monopoly. It’s over. I am telling my friends in the Histadrut and the large workers’ committees that it’s over. No longer will 2,000 people strangle the economy, paralyze the country and prevent us from advancing toward the future that awaits us,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the time.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz, who prepared alternative plans for importing and exporting goods in the event of a strike, also vowed that “the unions will not have veto power.”