Histadrut to declare port labor dispute Monday

Amid negotiations with gov't over port reform, Labor Federation set to announce dispute Monday, opening path for possible strike.

July 14, 2013 14:37
1 minute read.
Cranes are seen at the port of Haifa.

Cranes are seen at the port of Haifa 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Amid ongoing negotiations with the government over port reform, the Histadrut labor federation announced Sunday that it would declare a labor dispute at the nation’s sea ports the following day, opening the path for a possible strike.

Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini had been expected to call a dispute at a press conference the previous Sunday, but cancelled at the last minute to enter negotiations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instead.

Earlier in July, alongside Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Netanyahu released tenders to build two private ports in Ashdod and Haifa that would compete with the bloated state-run ports in those cities. At the time, Netanyahu had strong words for the labor unions, promising that any efforts to block reforms in the nation’s ports would be crushed.

“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,” Netanyahu said at the time.

Declaring a labor dispute allows the Histadrut to call a strike after two weeks.

When Katz announced his intention to release the tenders, he laid out a detailed plan to subvert a possible strike, including the possibility of bringing in foreign companies to run the ports.

Because goods and services equivalent to some 60 percent of the nation’s GDP travels through the ports, according to Economy Ministry Naftali Bennett, a strike could have serious repercussions for the economy.

“Nothing influences the cost of living as strongly as the flow of products and raw materials and our export goods that go out through Israel’s seaports,” Netanyahu said at the initial announcement.

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