The Israeli government is planning to issue a tender to build a privately run seaport in the coming months, pledging to end the monopolies of the two main ports of Ashdod and Haifa, Haaretz reports.
The state-owned ports are subject to work stoppages and slowdowns because of the “enormous strength” of their unions, according to Reuters. Until now, the government has been unwilling to risk a confrontation that could paralyze trade, given that 99 percent of exports and imports are transported by ship.
By introducing private piers to compete with the two ports, service would improve and prices across the board would drop, said Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, in an interview with a Reuters reporter.
The port unions, which comprise 2,400 workers earning double the average public sector salary, are threatening to strike to block the government’s plans.
However, the government is putting together competing plans for how to keep the country’s ports operating in the event dockworkers walk off their jobs to protest. Israel’s Transportation Ministry has begun exploring the possibility of bringing in foreign labor to stand in for striking workers and has discussed the idea with various overseas companies. Meanwhile, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economics and trade minister, has raised the idea of bringing in Israel Defense Forces troops to operate the ports. Both ministries are also examining the possibility of opening augmented loading and unloading facilities for container ships at the privatized ports of Eilat and Israel Shipyards.
Furthermore, Yisrael Katz, transport minister, who oversees the ports, told Army Radio that that government is also drafting a law to prevent a port strike. The bill, presumed to be included in the draft of the Economic Arrangements Law, would outlaw strikes in essential services before arbitration between the unions and the government.
“If the workers don’t obey the law, we’ll certainly need to adopt measures to ensure the ports’ operations,” Katz said.