The Israel Electric Corporation may be drowning in debts, but for its employees, things are going swimmingly.
The IEC has five times more employees than the Haifa and Ashdod ports combined, and every year it pays salaries — financed by our electricity bills — that are ten times higher than the ones paid to employees of the Ashdod Port. Its debt is 30 times higher than all the ports in Israel, but the ministerial battles over the right to institute reforms are all concentrating on the ports, not on the IEC.
Just the bonuses that IEC employees received in 2012, which totaled roughly NIS 1 billion, are equal to a year’s salary of all the port employees. But they’re sending out IDF soldiers to risk their lives climbing cranes at the ports instead of suffering boredom in the corridors of the IEC, filled as they are with hidden unemployment.
So David Gilo, head of the Antitrust Authority, is going to declare the ports oligopolies? Stop pulling our legs. Every few months the IEC, which is an official monopoly, receives a warning letter from Gilo that is filed away nicely. That is, if it even reaches its destination.
Importing foreign port workers from abroad in case of a strike? That’s no big deal. In the private power industry, foreign workers have already been brought in to build cheap power stations at one-third the cost of those the IEC builds with public funds. But let’s see them connect to the power grid on their own.
So the exorbitant salaries at the ports are jacking up the cost of living? They amount to almost one-third of the interest the public will pay this year for the IEC’s scandalous debt-raising (the principal is nine times greater).
What about the NIS 4 million spent on the steak coupons that are distributed to employees at the Ashdod Port? The “free power” benefit, which costs NIS 160 million, isn't even conditioned on increased productivity.
So the committee members live it up when they visit ports abroad? Oh, come off it. Over the past two decades, the IEC has illegally collected NIS 5.4 billion in public funds, and nobody in the government has dared to ask for it back.
The above list is deliberately confrontational. Competition reform in the ports is important and will help to offset NIS 5 billion in accumulated damage to the economy from under-productivity. But at a time when the question “Where is the money?” is looming over us, it’s hard to understand just why we have no idea.
Why is it taking the IEC two years to empty out an illegal bank account of NIS 2 billion that could have saved five percent in the power rate? Why did the government mortgage NIS 9 billion for fundraising guarantees for the IEC while its employees received a NIS 1 billion bonus, paid for by public funds? The IEC’s answer was that its hands were tied; the bonus was stipulated in the “contract.” But six months ago, the state comptroller discovered salary-related irregularities amounting to NIS 3.4 billion that are not stipulated in any “contract.” A company where that happens honors contracts only when it’s convenient for them to do so.
Our elected officials would do well by their voters if they redirected some of their focus on the ports toward the electricity monopoly. If they did, they might well find support in an unexpected place: the Ashdod Port itself. Port officials have decided, starting next year, to pull the plug on the IEC and get power from a privately-owned, cheaper power station nearby.
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