Port Workers Strike Imminent

YERUSHALAYIM -

A seaports strike looms in Israel.

The National Labor Court was expected to rule to permit a strike at the seaports when it hears the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce’s motion for an injunction against a strike at Ashdod and Haifa ports, Globes reported on Monday.

Although a strike could, technically, begin Tuesday, sources do not expect the Histadrut to declare one before Wednesday or Thursday, to allow time to prepare and launch a PR campaign.

Hundreds of port workers today demonstrated outside the court building to protest impending reforms. The demonstrators wore shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “This port is my home.”

Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz was a particular target of vituperation, though Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economic Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett have vigorously supported the port reforms and made statements that even seemed to welcome a fight with the union.

National Labor Court Vice President Yigal Plitman is hearing the case, alongside Judge Amiram Rabinovich and Judge Ronit Rosenfeld.

On Sunday, Plitman summoned the parties to a closed hearing, where he tried to persuade them to reach a compromise that would avoid a strike. He proposed that the Histadrut would refrain from striking and the government would freeze the tenders for the construction of private ports.

The government’s representatives insisted on the sovereign authority to build new ports without negotiating with the workers, and the meeting ended with no results.

Labor-law experts told Globes that the court will likely rule that while the government has the right to construct new ports, there are reasonable grounds for concern that this will harm workers, and that the state should negotiate with them.

The court is expected to rule that this is not a “political strike,” which is banned by law, but a strike on economic grounds, or at most “mixed grounds.” In the event of a strike on mixed grounds, the workers would have the right to strike with restrictions.