Government plans to use army to break any port strike

As the government seeks to implement privatization in Israel’s docks, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz is preparing for an all-out battle against expected strikes at the seaports of Haifa and Ashdod.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently gave the go-ahead to Katz’s plan to establish two new, private ports. The transportation minister is expected to publish tenders within the next two months to build the first port, either in Haifa or Ashdod, which he expects will be completed within five years. The estimated cost of the port will be NIS 1.1 billion ($308 million).

Port (Photo: Wikipedia)


According to Sunday’s Yedioth Aharonot anticipating potential backlash from the unions at those two ports, the finance and transportation ministries are advancing a plan to fire stevedores who decide to strike and replace them with IDF soldiers and port workers from abroad. The plan was dubbed “1981,” a reference to the year in which then-US president Ronald Reagan fired some 11,000 air traffic controllers who went on strike in peak summer travel season, threatening to cripple commercial air travel. Approximately 7,000 flights were canceled in a single day due to the strike. Neo-liberal Reagan replaced the dismissed workers with military personnel, imposing a lifetime ban on the strikers from ever being rehired in air traffic control.

Along with taking measures to prevent a strike from disabling the ports completely, Katz also said that his ministry will seek to outlaw strikes among providers of essential services.

Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, who has been working with Katz on the privatization plan, engaged over the weekend in a war of words with Alon Hassan, the Ashdod port workers committee chairman. On Thursday, Hassan, head of the Ashdod port workers, called Bennett a “phony.” “You have no idea what you are talking about,” he wrote on Facebook. “You are a populist minister who is letting the public hear nonsense.” Bennett, he said, should “learn something about the ports” before making any statements.