Israel’s National Labor Court has ordered the federal government to temporarily halt tenders for the building of two new private ports until Sept. 1 and launch negotiations with unions regarding the process, Haaretz reports.
The court also ordered the Histadrut and the Ashdod and Haifa port workers’ union not to call a strike or take other work action before September.
Israel Katz, the nation’s transportation minister, responded aggressively to the news on his Facebook page:
“We respect the labor court, which delayed by a month the creation of new ports, but we won’t change our outlook and we’ll petition against the decision,” he said. “If we need to, we’ll push through legislation.”
“If (port union heads) Alon Hassan and Meir Turjeman want to see the new ports up close, they better buy binoculars, since they’re not getting near them any other way,” he continued. “We won’t build new ports so that Hassan and Turjeman can take control of them. We won’t bribe them with billions to agree, as was done in the past, without receiving anything in return.”
Meanwhile, other ministries have declined to halt their work progress, arguing that they were still learning about the ruling.
“We regret the labor court’s decision,” Israel’s finance ministry said in a statement. “The state maintains its right to establish new ports for strengthening competition, lowering the cost of living and developing the economy.”
The case was originally brought before the court by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, which petitioned to prevent the port workers from striking.
“We are not opposed to the principle of reform and the development of new privately operated ports,” said Ofer Eini, Histadrut chief, when declaring the work dispute two weeks ago. “But we expected the government to agree with us not to infringe on the salary conditions or job security of veteran port workers, as well as to ensure the rights of workers employed at the new ports.”
Histradut previously accused the government of failing to deal with the “devastating repercussions on the existing ports as a result of the establishment of new ports” and of threatening behavior.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation has shown support for the port tenders delay, calling the port reform “unnecessary":
“We welcome this move,” said Steve Cotton, ITF’s acting general secretary, in a written remark. “For the benefit of all parties concerned, a democratic process should always be put in place if changes are possible which could have an impact on workers.”