Histadrut Declares Labor Dispute at Postal Authority

The Histadrut Labor Federation yesterday declared a labor dispute at the Postal Authority, claiming that the government is "preventing fair competition in the postal market."

The dispute was requested by the union representing the authority's 5,000 employees. They will be permitted to begin sanctions or a strike at the end of the mandatory 14-day cooling-off period that begins today with the dispute's declaration.

The chairman of the Postal Authority union, Reuven Karazi, said that the public commission established to set the authority's prices selected rates that were high, inflexible and lacking any economic logic for bulk mail.

"These rates are obligatory for the Postal Authority but not for other organizations that are entering the market, which is now being opened up to competition," Karazi said.

Karazi said this will make it impossible for the Postal Authority to win tenders issued by the 70 largest companies in the country, which, in effect, make the authority economically viable.

"The upshot of this is that thousands of employees are likely to be fired by the authority," Karazi said.

Three months ago, an agreement was signed between the treasury and the Communications Ministry on one side and the Histadrut and Postal Authority's union on the other, according to which the authority would become a company as of March.

The bulk mail market was opened up to competition two weeks ago. The two-year-old public commission set up to determine mail rates and headed by Eli Sagi submitted its recommendations earlier this week.

The workers and unions claim the commission was to have completed its work in November in order to give the Postal Authority time to prepare for the open market. They also claim the commission was supposed to allow the authority to be flexible over rates, which was deemed a necessary move to make it possible to compete with private delivery companies.

In addition, they argue that the rates for single pieces of mail also were set too high to be competitive.