Katz: Gov't will fight unions if Eini leads strike

Transportation minister responds to talk about possible general strike if government moves ahead with plans to build private ports.

July 7, 2013 01:56
2 minute read.
PM Netanyahu announces tenders for new portz with Lapid, Katz

Netanyahu, Katz, Lapid announce port tenders 370. (photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)

If the Histadrut labor federation threatens port reforms, the government will retaliate with measures against organized labor, Transportation Minister Israel Katz said on Saturday.

“The reform has already begun and cannot be stopped.

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Our waters are open to international companies and the final result is that [private] seaports will be constructed,” Katz told Channel 2’s Meet the Press.

While the government is prepared to negotiate with Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, Katz warned that it would be a mistake on his part to declare a general strike.

“A strike would lead the government to take steps that would be problematic for him, like passing a compulsory arbitration law,” Katz said. “If Eini will prevent me from upgrading import to the State of Israel and from lowering the price of products for all citizens – Eini doesn’t want to reach that point.”

Katz added that he believes that port and other workers have the right to strike, but the attempt to “bring the government to its knees” will be met by “a government that stands tall and is ready for battle.”

“We aren’t privatizing the port; we are increasing competition,” he explained. “Eini shouldn’t try to lead the workers [in a strike], because it’ll end in a situation where the workers will realize that their representation is wrong.”

According to Katz, this is not an age in which labor leaders can act aggressively and abuse power at the public’s expense.

The transportation minister said he would be willing to put more funding into government-owned seaports so they can compete with the new, private ones.

“[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, [Finance Minister Yair] Lapid and I decided that we need two ports in order to encourage competition and turn Israel into a center of maritime trade. Companies in Israel and around the world are waiting in line, because this is a safe investment that will not come from the state budget and will not be paid for by the citizens, and in the end there will be thousands more jobs in Ashdod and Haifa,” Katz explained.

On Wednesday, the government issued two international tenders for the construction and operation of two new private seaports to compete with the existing Ashdod and Haifa ports.

Netanyahu declared the move “the end of monopolies” at the nation’s ports in a press conference with Lapid and Katz who officially announced the tenders.

Niv Elis contributed to this report.

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