Israel Electric to petition Labor Court today

'Sanctions could harm supply,' company warns.

By DANIEL KENNEMER
September 15, 2006 03:40
3 minute read.
Israel Electric to petition Labor Court today

electric sunset 298. (photo credit: Channel 1)

 
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Israel Electric said Thursday that it would submit a petition to the National Labor Court Friday requesting a court order that would force the company's workers to end sanctions begun Thursday morning and go back to working as usual. "The sanctions are liable to cause disturbances to the supply of electricity," the company said, adding that continuation of the workers' protest actions requires it to "act through all legal means at its disposal to ensure regular activity at the company." For instance, workers have warned that they would not clear out the coal ash from energy production units, which could cause the units to malfunction, a company spokesman said. Israel Electric management called in the workers for a meeting Thursday to try to persuade them to end the protest, and issued a simultaneous call to the government to return to dialogue between all parties "in order to come to agreements on the appropriate structure of the electricity market," the company said. Israel Electric workers charged that, with the approval of the budget, the government "took a decision that puts the future of Israel's electricity system at risk," and could destabilize power supply. Sanctions taken "are not directed at the customers, and some [sanctions] even benefit [customers]," the workers said, citing as examples of protest actions the union's decisions to freeze mailing of bills and to abstain from disconnecting poor customers who haven't paid bills. The workers said they were "determined to prevent any action that would put the provision of electricity to the citizens of the State of Israel at risk," and insisted that "the actions taken ... are directed against the [company's] management and the government alone." The reforms adopted by the government would reduce power reserves, putting the grid in danger of collapse, especially during peak periods, the workers charged, in explanation of the sanctions. "This is a true disaster and a threat to human lives. Responsibility for the collapse of the power system is on the heads of the prime minister [Ehud Olmert], the finance minister [Avraham Hirchson], the [national] infrastructures minister [Binyamin Ben-Eliezer] and [Israel] Electric Company CEO [Ori Bin-Nun]," they said. The Finance Ministry outline of the planned privatization of the electricity sector - included in the text of the budget largely approved Tuesday night (available on-line at www.mof.gov.il/budget2007/pdf/mediniyut_kalkalit.pdf) - indicates that the government would begin dismantling Israel Electric by this coming March. Israel Electric itself would remain as a holding company, while electricity production would be split off into four subsidies; conduction and systems management would be separated into one or two companies; distributing the electricity would be handled by four subsidies; and four additional service subsidies would be created to handle planning, establishment of new facilities and execution of plans, information technology and logistics. The subsidies would be incorporated by March 1, 2007, and the holding company would gradually reduce its stake in them until it holds no more than 51% of their stock by January 1, 2012. Once the holding company's stake is reduced to 51%, the energy production subsidies would be able to begin desalinating water and service subsidies would be able to expand into new fields, such as communications, according to the scheme. While the holding company would be required to eventually sell off any remaining holdings in the service subsidies, any further reduction in the company's stock in production and distribution subsidies would require government approval. Workers would be eligible to receive compensation as the holding company reduces its stake in the subsidies "in accordance with Government Companies Authority norms for compensating workers in privatization." The employees would also be eligible to compete for the purchase of stock in the companies "under equitable conditions," the text states.

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