Israel's Labor Court Berated for Upholding Ashdod Port Workers' Deal

Court upholds decision withholding sanctions on striking workers in favor of three-month negotiation period; Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce president calls move 'a poor decision.'

A court's decision to uphold an agreement supporting striking port workers earned it a tongue-lashing from the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Following the National Labor Court's ruling that it would validate a one-day-old agreement to halt sanctions on striking management workers at the Ashdod Port, Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, declared the move "a poor decision."

Wednesday's agreement called for a three-month negotiation period between the sides over the issue of nepotism in management offices.

"The judges should have made a clear ruling that port workers need to get back to normal work, with no conditions. The return to work shouldn't be conditional on negotiations about principles that are completely clear," Lynn said.

According to Lynn, negotiations about providing management-level jobs to family members can't be held, particularly in an institution that is supposed to be upholding transparency and integrity. Lynn added that the subject of nepotism in the Ashdod Port has already been dealt with by the court several times.

"It is unconscionable that this topic hangs like the sword of Damocles over the continued normal functioning of the seaports," Lynn said.

Others suggested more extreme action against the workers.

"Nothing but a class-action suit against the Ashdod Port workers' council can solve the port's nepotism problems once and for all," said Gal Gorodeisky, a labor law expert and lawyer, on Thursday. "One of the main problems at the port is that there is nobody who can deal with the widespread phenomenon of staff hiring their own family members. One of the jobs of a workers' organization is to fight against this, but in this case the organization itself has a conflict on interest."

According to Gorodeisky, when a strong workers' organization doesn't enforce proper legal norms, it weakens the individual worker, who can't change the situation even if he wants to, because it would mean a battle between the powerful and the meek.

"The only weapon for such a situation is class-action suit, where one worker can represent everyone," Gorodeisky said.

Ofer Vaknin