Haifa/Ashdod Port Workers Continue Strike against Privatization

Israel’s two main ports remained closed on Thursday, May 28, as port workers in Haifa and Ashdod continued their strike against privatization. The workers declared they would remain off the job even if ordered to return to work by a court.

On Wednesday, the port workers’ union chapter declared a strike and released the following statement: “Due to the continued violation of our rights by the Minister of Transport and the government of Israel, we the workers of the ports of Ashdod and Haifa have decided to launch a strike. We see how the government is undermining our livelihoods, our rights, our future and that of our families.” The statement continued: “No one has talked to us for a year and a half; the Histadrut has sold us out, and the new ports will destroy us.”

The Port of Haifa

The Port of Haifa (Photo: Creative Commons Zvi Roger)

Late Wednesday, a labor court judge convened a hearing at the request of the ports’ management, and found that the workers have no just cause for initiating a work action; he ordered them to return to work at 4:30 am on Thursday, but as of 8 am the ports remained closed.

The strike was called after management invited the Chinese and Dutch companies which won the contracts to build and operate the new ports in Haifa and Ashdod to review the work procedures in the existing ports. The planned, privately owned competing ports will be free to hire non-union labor.

The port workers’ strike was timed to coincide with the signing of the agreement on Thursday afternoon to close the deal for the construction of the new Haifa and Ashdod ports scheduled to open at the beginning of next decade.

Histadrut officials announced that they had not authorized the strike and that the port workers’ union chapter had broken off all contact with them. The head of transportation workers division in the Histadrut, Avi Edri, said, “The Histadrut has always supported the just struggle of Israeli port workers and will continue to do so. However, the Histadrut now calls upon the port workers to honor the decision of the labor court and return to work.”