Port workers defy Labor Court order

Ashdod Port Photo: Eyal Yizhar

In a rare move, the Labor Court judge has ordered the police to bring the workers committee leaders to the court to discuss the strike.

According to information obtained by "Globes," workers at Haifa Port and Ashdod Port do not intend to comply with yesterday's ruling by the National Labor Court ordering them to resume work immediately. A source at Haifa Port told "Globes" yesterday that the workers were not planning to return to work "either tonight or tomorrow morning."

However, the in a rare move, the labor court judge has ordered the police to bring the workers committee leaders to the court to discuss the strike.

A sources associated with the management of Ashdod Port told "Globes" today that several dozen workers showed up for work at Ashdod Port this morning, most of whom belonged to the National Labor Federation in Eretz-Israel, not the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel), which represents most of the port workers. The workers were not allowed to enter the port; they were told, "The port cannot be operated because the TOS central computer system is down and there are no foremen on the docks."

Workers at Haifa Port and Ashdod Port yesterday went on strike. All work at the ports was halted and the workers went home. The motive for the strike is a protest against the ports reform now being formulated; the workers are growing increasingly anxious about competition from the new ports to be built as part of the reform, which will be far more efficient than the existing ports. Chinese company SIPG, which currently operates Shanghai Port, will operate the new terminal in Haifa and Dutch company TIL, owned by the MSC shipping company, will operate the Ashdod terminal.

Before the scheduled beginning of the night shift, the National Labor Court stated in its ruling, "In view of the circumstances - the heavy damage caused by the work disruptions - and because the work disruptions are in violation of agreements - we are issuing ex parte orders mandating an immediate return to work."

The judges also stated, "The Histadrut must exert its organizational authority and ensure that work is resumed."

The management of Haifa Port earlier sent the following message to all the company's workers: "The court has issued an ex parte temporary injunction instructing all the workers to immediately return to regular full work. You are required to appear for regular work as needed. Any worker who does not appear for work is acting illegally in violation of a judicial order, with all that that implies."

The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce says that each day of the strike causes tens of millions of shekels in damage. The immediate damage results mainly from the expiry date for merchandise stuck in the ports (imports and exports of fresh food, food with imminent expiry dates, medical equipment for hospitals, etc.).

The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce adds, "If the strike is prolonged, the damage will reach NIS 350 million weekly."

Ashdod Port stated, "We have decided to petition the court for personal contempt of court orders, after work in the port did not return to the regular format and the docks and other positions to be manned were left without workers, except for workers in the unpackaged goods sector and the marine department. The Histadrut and the workers' leaders are thereby treating the rulings and orders issued by the court with the greatest contempt."

The heads of the workers' committees at the two ports did not attend the National Labor Court hearing of the ports' petition for contempt of court orders against them. The workers did not appear for work, despite the court order instructing them to do so. Transportation Workers Union chairperson Avi Edri said, "We are making every effort to contact the heads of the workers' committees, but their telephones have been switched off."

Meanwhile, in the wake of the strike, Zim has said that it is considering moving its operations overseas. 

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 10, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Ashdod Port Photo: Eyal Yizhar
Ashdod Port Photo: Eyal Yizhar
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