Labor sanctions at Israel Electric to lead to power cuts

"If there is no electricity, can we tell people to buy candles?"

By SHARON WROBEL
September 18, 2006 10:52
3 minute read.
Labor sanctions at Israel Electric to lead to power cuts

electricity 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The harsh labor sanctions at the Israel Electric Corporation imposed by the workers are set to continue and poised to lead to disturbances in the power supply with no immediate solution in sight. "I can not calm the public, although today we have electricity, but the situation could deteriorate," said Ori Bin-Nun, CEO of Israel Electric. "We are stuck in a fundamental crisis. As a result of the sanctions, there are bound to be disturbances in the power supply in the short-term but more importantly, we are concerned over the critical shortage of electricity in the long-term." Israel Electric on Friday submitted a petition to the National Labor Court 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 court decided to allow the majority of the sanctions apart from the sanction regarding the refusal to clear out the coal ash from energy production units, which could have caused the units to malfunction. On Thursday, Israel Electric's employees cut the company's management off from computer, telephone and electricity services, which continues to disrupt the work of managers, directors and legal department. Israel Electric workers' committee also announced that workers halted the unloading of coal from Israel Electric ships and the removal of ash from power stations. "In this situation, it has become impossible for me, or anyone, to manage the electricity company," said Bin-Nun. "I have no access to information about what is going on. All the systems are blocked and I can not give permission for repair work needed for immediate return to full capacity, for example at the Rothenberg power station, or start the refurbishment work in preparation for the winter." Israel Electric workers charged that, with the approval of the budget, the government made a one-sided decision on the electricity market reform outlined in the text of the budget that put the future of Israel's electricity system at risk and could lead to scarcity of power supply. "The dismantling of the electricity company will not by itself mean that we should have an electricity surplus on the day after," said Bin-Nun. "Today, we have an electricity supply level of about 9,500 megawatt, while the demand level is already coming near to 9,000 megawatt." Bin-Nun added that there was reasonable concern that in the coming years there simply would not be electricity. "Structural changes within the electricity market are a complex endeavor. If my grandchildren want waffles but we run out, we can give them 'Bamba,' but if there is no electricity, can we tell people to buy candles?" Bin-Nun explained that the source of the crisis between the workers and management was the complete lack of confidence felt by the workers towards the representatives of the Treasury. "In the proposal, some of the decisions regarding the structural changes did not match the decisions which were discussed around the negotiation table between the Treasury and the workers," said Bin-Nun. The main problem, according to Bin-Nun, was the belief by the employees that the government's decision was irrevocable and they wouldn't believe that changes at a later stage could be negotiated. On Sunday afternoon, Bin-Nun planned to meet up with National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and representatives of the Treasury to try to find a way out of the crisis. "I have received a mandate from the heads of the workers' union to find a way of bringing the process back to the negotiation table," said Bin-Nun. "We need the reform, Israel Electric can not continue to be operated by loans. It needs sources of raising capital."

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