Eini to meet PM, nixes press conference on ports

Histardut Labor Federation Chairman cancels event in which he was expected to react to planned port reforms.

July 7, 2013 16:34
2 minute read.
Histadrut chair Ofer Eini at Labor Court

Histadrut chair Ofer Eini at Labor Court_311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini on Sunday canceled an evening press conference, in which he was expected to issue his reaction to planned port reforms, in order to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

During the course of their hour-long meeting, Netanyahu and Eini agreed that before they meet again, discussions between their representatives Harel Locker and Avi Niskorem would continue over the course of a week to try and reach an understanding.

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On Thursday, Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Transportation Minister Israel Katz issued tenders for two private ports in Ashdod and Haifa, which would compete with the heavily unionized ports in those cities.

Netanyahu threw the gauntlet at Eini in no uncertain terms, saying “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.”

The Histadrut has not issued any formal reaction to the announcement.

Alongside integrating haredim and Arabs into the workforce, passing the Open Skies agreement and bringing down the cost of living, port reform was a prominent aspect of the government’s economic reform agenda.

Critics say that corruption and union-fueled inflated wages have made the ports costly and inefficient, which affects prices of the roughly 60 percent of the country’s GDP transferred through the ports.

“The government is determined to move forward with the reform, we already launched it,” Katz said before Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“The Histadrut chairman certainly needs to support this reform and not give his hand to strikes that will hurt the economy” Katz aid. “If Eini wants war, there will be war. But if he wants dialogue, there will be a dialogue. We prefer dialogue.”

Katz said the government is not willing to talk about the principle of establishing new ports, “but rather many other things.”

Katz said that if Eini wanted to test the government and paralyze the economy with strikes aimed at trying to stop the ports reform, that would be tantamount to a “declaration of war” and would be met with similar determination from the government.

Anticipating a harsh reaction from Eini, Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce President Uriel Lynn said Sunday that opposing reforms did not help Israel’s workers.

“The threats Eini will attempt to lob at the ministers are an attempt to harm the legitimacy of the democratically elected institutions and prevent them from making the precise decisions they have to make to serve the public and advance the economy.”

“Hopefully,” he added, “the ministers will stand behind their statements this time.”

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