Legal Spat Delays Selection of New Labor Union Chief

The incumbent has picked a successor, but a Labor Party legislator hopes to win the post.

Ofer Eini said Tuesday he would stay on as Histadrut labor federation chief longer than planned until the Supreme Court rules on a lawsuit challenging the succession process.

Eini was supposed to step down on February 1 – in the middle of his third term after eight years at the post – and has declared his support for Trade Unions Division chief Avi Nissenkorn to succeed him. But the transition has been put in limbo by a lawsuit filed by MK Eitan Cabel (Labor).

“The legal action by MK Cabel in the Tel Aviv District Court ended in the dismissal of all his claims and the approval of the selection method that the Histadrut recently adopted,” Eini told a meeting of top Histadrut officials.

“Considering the ramifications of the situation, in which the Histadrut is likely to find itself without an elected chairman, harming its ability to effectively fight for Israel’s workers, I have decided to postpone my departure date.”

Some observers say the long transition period since Eini made known his plans in November has left a leadership vacuum at a critical time. The Histadrut is in talks about reforms at the country’s ports. Meanwhile, demand for collective-bargaining at private-sector companies like Migdal Insurance and even high-tech companies like Ness Technologies is growing.

Cabel, a rival candidate to head the labor federation, filed suit in the Tel Aviv District Court in November to block Eini’s plans to have Nissenkorn’s appointment confirmed by the Histadrut Legislative Assembly instead of through a general election.

The court ruled in favor of the Histadrut leadership, but Cabel has appealed to the Supreme Court, which will not make a decision before mid-February. In the meantime, the court issued an injunction barring the union federation from moving forward with the succession procedure.

According to the Histadrut charter, a chairman who resigns before his elected term can recommend a replacement to the representative council without holding a membership-wide election. But Cabel, who lost to Eini in the last Histadrut general election in 2012, asked the court to tell the Histadrut to amend its charter’s succession clause for Histadrut members to vote on a successor.

Ofer Vaknin