Text size

In an all-out attack on the Histadrut, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned yesterday that while a handful of unions have decided to hold the country by the throat, work is underway on legislation that would require a majority of workers to vote in favor before any strike could be launched.

Apparently, Netanyahu is still a little naive. Vote? Majority? Does he think that the unions are a civics class? Get real, man - the large unions have more say than management. At the Israel Electric Corporation no appointment can be made without the union's consent. At Bezeq, it is the union that decides on each worker's pension package. At the Ports Authority you can only get a job if you have relatives or friends in the union. In the civil service you cannot be transferred from job to job unless the union agrees. Does the finance minister truly believe that in this reign of terror a vote can even take place?

Union chiefs are never replaced. Like Saddam Hussein, they always get a 99-percent majority. The reign of terror forces employees to go on supporting the very same people every time. Even if a vote were to take place, who if not the union would be supervising the polls? Therefore, the outcome of any such referendum is preordained: 99-percent support for whatever the union proposes. The only reason why 100 percent is not a sure thing is that some people simply mix up the ballots.

The right to strike is not absolute, especially when the economy is in such a deep recession as now. It was wrong to compromise export and tourism and to shut down the skies and the seas. Actions of this kind make exporters lose market share abroad, because they are unable to meet deadlines; the only tourists who still dare to come here, will never return. Nor will their friends.

The Manufacturers' Association president and Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations chairman, Oded Tyrah, and Israeli Chambers of Commerce chairman Uriel Lynn yesterday organized a demonstration of 1,200 business sector employees in Tel Aviv. Factory workers, truck drivers, customs brokers, contractors, craftsmen and other salaried employees and self-employed workers rallied at the intersection of Arlosoroff and Haifa roads, carrying signs and chanting slogans against the strike - and for the right to work.

But neither Netanyahu's threats of legislation, nor Tyrah's rallies, can stop detrimental strikes from taking place in the future. If the Jubilee Port were privatized, as was originally planned, a strike at the ports of Ashdod and Haifa would have been futile. If instead of handing the management of Haifa airport to the Israel Airports Authority, the government had decided to expand and privatize the airfield - the IAA would not have been able to stop all entries and exits. If customs director Eitan Rub had assigned the release of goods to private customs brokers, customs workers would not have gone on strike. And if El Al were privatized, flights would be taking off on time.

Therein lies the answer. It may not be easy or simple to apply, but it is the only solution.