Strike cost estimated at NIS 350m.-500m.

The strike threatened to disrupt the Eilat Conference, an international tourism promotion event, planned for next week.

By SHARON WROBEL
November 30, 2006 07:49
3 minute read.
strike sign 88

strike sign 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Manufacturers and the Chambers of Commerce on Wednesday urged the National Labor Court on Wednesday to put an immediate end to the general public strike called by the Histadrut Labor Federation in an attempt to avert further disruptions, which they estimated is costing the economy between NIS 350 million and NIS 500m. a day. "If a quick end to the public strike can be achieved within a day or two, then we will not see a significant impact on the Israeli economy," said Nira Shamir, director of the Manufacturers Association of Israel's economics division. "A continued public sector strike bringing traffic at the country's airports and seaports to a standstill and cutting production at oil refineries will result in a lack of raw materials for factories and a potential loss of domestic and international orders as well as shortages of gas at gas stations and electricity power cuts." The Association estimates the strike would cost the economy NIS 350m. a day, while the Chambers of Commerce pitched their estimate higher at NIS 500m. daily. Wednesday's strike encompassed all government ministries, the Israel Tax Authority, the Bank of Israel, the courts, Israel Railways, Israel Airports Authority, Israel Ports Co. Ltd. and all the ports, all border terminals, as well as the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co., Oil Refineries Ltd. and the Israel Electric Corporation. Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers Association, and Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, said the private sector could not continue to pay for the failures of the public sector and urged Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson to solve the problem and protect the business sector and the economy. Yonathan Melman chairman of the Kibbutz Industry Association, meanwhile, urged Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini to open the country's seaports to avert unnecessary damage caused to the industry's factories and Israel's export activities. "The damage caused by the closure of the seaports is estimated at around NIS 30m. a day," he said. The Kibbutz Industry Association added that the industry has already had to cope with great export and production difficulties this summer because of the war in the North and the disruptions at the Haifa port. "It is not fair to hit us with another slap," they said. Concerns also abounded in the tourism industry. "It is of primary importance that authority workers receive their wages," said Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, "but if the strike continues, it could hurt tourism recovery efforts [after the summer's war in Lebanon]." The strike threatened to disrupt the Eilat Conference, an international tourism promotion event, planned for next week. "Cancellation or undermining of the conference could indirectly hurt the tourism industry's recovery and lead to layoffs in the industry," he added. The strike was also not the comforting message El Al was looking for after it attributed the severe drop in tourism resulting from the war as one of the main reasons for the plunge in its third-quarter profits reported Wednesday. "The strike is affecting us very badly. We are paralyzed," Haim Romano, president and CEO of El Al, told The Jerusalem Post. "We estimate the damage to be more than a couple of millions of dollars per day." The strike, however, was having little impact on the financial markets with stocks in Tel Aviv setting new records and the shekel posting a sharp advance against the dollar. "The impact of the strike on the economy is there but the capital markets assume that the impact will be temporary and would not take much longer than a day or two. Therefore, we did not see a downward reaction on the markets on Wednesday," Yair Alek, CEO of Axioma Investment Management told the Post. "However, if the strike continues longer than a week companies will be facing serious disruptions in their export and import operations, affecting their revenues and profits."

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