The struggle over port reform, beset by two major strikes and several work disruptions, dates back to 1999, when then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu spearheaded a project to promote competition among the ports.
Netanyahu pushed through approval to establish the Jubilee port, adjacent to Ashdod port, built privately through the the BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) model.
The workers committees objected to the BOT method, which hires workers on personal contracts. They organized strikes and seriously disrupted the ports, successfully overturning the BOT plan.
Ehud Barak, as prime minister, also promoted creating port competition. The government signed an agreement with the Histadrut in 2000 to incorporate the ports as subsidiaries of the Ports Authority. The workers committees, who feared this model would harm their power, objected to this plan as well.
When Netanyahu returned to power as Finance Minister and discovered the committees would not take his reform plans seriously, he decided to unilaterally bypass them. Going well beyond incorporation, he set out to break up the Ports Authority altogether. The committees struck for 10 days in September 2003 in response.
Knesset approval of Netanyahu's reform in July 2004 induced another strike, this one a month long. Intensive negotiations followed, during which Histadrut chair Amir Peretz, who meanwhile had rejoined Labor, distanced himself from resorting to strikes.
Even so, as recently as three weeks ago, workers' representative Dudu Peretz threatened to strike. But that became unnecessary as negotiators struck a lucrative deal for port workers, securing NIS 100,000 per worker - half now and half in five years.
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