Histadrut Rattles Saber Over Monopoly Issue

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Histadrut has threatened a general strike over reports of a government proposal to apply anti-trust laws to unions, a move that it views as endangering the right to strike and bargain collectively, Globes reports.

The Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Economy have reportedly been discussing with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Deputy Attorney General Avi Licht the possibility of treating unions as monopolies where workers’ action harm competition.

Ministry of Finance Budget Director Amir Levy said, “In places where there is competition, the workers do not think about striking … If the Histadrut waives the ultimate weapon … the Histadrut, too, will benefit as the representative of workers and will contribute to democracy, and we as consumers will benefit. If someone strikes, I want the consumer to have an alternative.”

One of the consequences of such a move would be that in the event of labor unrest over reform at IEC or the seaports, the government could resort to using the Restraint of Trade Tribunal to issue back-to-work orders.  Legally, the issue remains unresolved.

Government officials are trying to anticipate public reaction to punitive measures against unions. It is a question whether people will support workers’ rights, when strikes and slowdowns disrupt public services.

Weinstein’s position is to wait for an actual case: If a workers committee at a monopoly takes steps that harm competition and the Antitrust Authority petitions tribunal, and its hearing will be subject to the Attorney General’s opinion.