Labor Court to hand down decision on port strike in coming days

Labor federation submits to court an interim study analyzing the effect new ports would have on workers.

By
September 8, 2013 04:03
2 minute read.
Cranes are seen at the port of Haifa.

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

The National Labor Court is expected to announce its decision in the next few days on whether the Histadrut labor federation may strike over port reforms, after postponing a decision on the matter in a hearing on Tuesday.

The Israel Manufacturers Association, which joined the government’s petition prior to the hearing, said that the business sector could see NIS 340 million in losses from one week of striking, with damages getting worse over time.

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“Just by the fourth day, the daily financial damage is expected to reach NIS 70m.,” the group said.

“The sea port services are an integral part of the competitiveness, reliability and reputation of the Israeli economy,” the IMA’s attorney Ofer Yohananof wrote in the request submitted to the court. “In these circumstances, a general strike by the port workers will gradually disrupt the country’s economic activity as well.”

A strike, he continued, would cause severe and partly irreversible economic damage.

For its part, the labor federation submitted an interim study analyzing the effect new ports would have on workers to the court ahead of the hearing, arguing that reforms that brought down prices would “necessarily cause serious harm to the salaries of all the workers at the ports and will endanger their jobs.”

The idea of building private ports centers around the idea that introducing competition to the existing ports would bring down prices.



In its late-night ruling, the court expressed displeasure at protesting port union workers who disrupted the proceedings.

Alongside Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu released tenders to build private ports in Ashdod and Haifa in July. At the time, the prime minister promised 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.

When the labor federation seemed intent on going on strike over the matter in July, the court intervened, freezing the tenders and ruling out a strike for a month while the two sides negotiate.

Last week, the court allowed the freeze on the tenders to lapse.

When Katz originally 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.


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