Ashdod Port Union Insists on Ex-cons Keeping Their Jobs

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The unions at Ashdod Port are determined to allow convicted criminals to keep their jobs after being released from prison, putting them on a collision course with management and the Government Corporations Authority.

TheMarker and Haaretz recently revealed how the port has been protecting the jobs of convicted felons. State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said he intends to investigate the goings-on at the port and what, if anything, the regulators are doing about it.

Under pressure to change the status quo, the port has been given until next week to propose changes to company policy regarding workers convicted of crimes or facing criminal charges.

The port’s board agreed in a meeting this week with Meir Shamra, the authority’s senior director-general, to formulate a set of guidelines for dealing with workers embroiled in criminal proceedings or convicted and serving time.

The authority has been after the port for weeks to submit a policy.

A case in point is port worker Yigal Gozland, who was sentenced to seven years in prison after being convicted of burning down a pub he owned to collect the insurance money. The government-owned port continued paying Gozland his salary throughout the three-year period before he was convicted and put him on unpaid leave of absence for the time he was behind bars to keep him from losing his job.

The Haaretz probe found that Gozland and Alon Hassan, chairman of the equipment operators’ union at the port, are partners in two private companies supplying services to port customers.

It has also been revealed that Gamliel “Guma” Hassin, one of the port’s chieftains a decade ago who was appointed head of a port museum that was never built, has now returned after an eight-year leave of absence. After Hassin left in 2005 to go into private business the port extended his leave each year.

Last year Hassin was charged for a series of tax offenses after allegedly failing to report receiving millions of shekels and other favors from his partner, Yaakov Bardugo, the former director-general of the Mifal Hapayis national lottery, and from businessman David Appel, in exchange for “advice” given to southern distributors awarded licenses to sell lottery tickets.

On returning to the port Hassin was assigned to the port’s marketing division while his court case proceeds.

A third instance involves Meir Harel, a 33-year-old port worker who was convicted for molesting an eight-year-old girl and sentenced to three years. Despite the conviction and the rejection of his appeal last year, port management has refused to fire him.

In response, the Ashdod Port denied that Gozland and Harel are on unpaid leave. Because Harel was convicted for a felony with moral turpitude, management asked the Histadrut labor federation for permission to fire him without severance pay. The Histadrut will respond in several days.

The Ashdod Port board tried to change the procedure dealing with workers on unpaid leave in December but encountered resistance.

We, the workers representatives ... won’t agree under any circumstances to management making any change to a procedure dealing with workers’ rights,” wrote Hassan and his deputy, Avinoam Shoshan, in a letter to management.

Commenting on the union’s reaction, an insider at the port said: “This is further testimony to the blurring of lines at the port and the norms two union heads are willing to adopt while tarnishing all the workers. Labor agreements weren’t meant to protect convicted criminals.”

Ashdod Port.Credit: Ilya Melnikov

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