Ashdod Port Workers Facing Heavy Fines Over Slowdowns

The step is being taken at the behest of the Finance Ministry's wages department following the frequent work stoppages the port has endured in the last several months.

The management of Ashdod Port intends to announce within several days that it is fining employees involved in unauthorized slowdowns by docking pay for hours not worked, TheMarker has learned.

The step is being taken at the behest of the Finance Ministry's wages department following the frequent work stoppages the port has endured in the last several months.

"The union locals weren't approached on the issue of pay deductions for sanctions," said the port's management in a statement. "The company will act in accordance with instructions from the Government Companies Authority and the director of wages, and will do whatever is required."

The hours in which sanctions took place will be deducted from the monthly paychecks of about 850 employees, or two thirds of the port's workforce, including those working in operations, its workshops and at port headquarters.

Management provided the treasury last week with the figures that show the drop in output that was caused by the sanctions and an outline of the amount it intends to dock from the wages of workers involved, which ranges from 10% to 30% of their monthly pay.

The figures are currently being reviewed by the treasury's wages division. When they are approved, management will inform workers about the measures.

The port's monthly payroll is about NIS 50 million so the move could save millions in expenses.

If the treasury goes ahead with the initiative, it will be the first time in memory that striking workers at the port have had their pay docked. Ashdod port has experienced frequent slowdown in recent years, but workers have never been punished..

Among those facing fines are five administrators in the port's head offices who cut off the phone lines, Internet and electricity last month for two weeks. They were protesting a decision by the board barring relatives of port workers from working in the offices of the port's chairman, CEO, legal counselor and internal auditor.

The sanctions by the administrative staff were supported by the port's operations workers, who began a work-to-rule campaign that disrupted port activity. As a result, 15 ships were delayed outside the port, two left for other destinations with unloading and 120 containers were left unattended.

Also facing fines are 130 employees at the port's workshops, who engaged in sanctions the past two months over negotiations for a new collective agreement. Even after the agreement was signed they joined the protest by the workers' committees and refused to work a second shift.

The operations and workshop employees deny having taken any sanctions but the National Labor Court became involved in the dispute and came up with a compromise that put an end to the sanctions.

Fining the workers isn't expected to go smoothly and could lead to renewed unrest, possibly another strike.

Ofer Vaknin