Ashdod Port Charges Shabbat Rate on Sundays

Avi Bar-Eli
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Ashdod Port.Credit: Pavel Tulchinsky
Avi Bar-Eli

The Ashdod Port charges importers and exporters an increased “Shabbat rate” even if their goods are processed on Sunday morning — well after the Jewish Sabbath has ended.

A request for a class action suit against the Government Port Company was approved in March, and the details reveal that the port charges an extra 40% to load and unload goods on Shabbat — even if the goods are being unloaded as late as 6:30 on Sunday morning, and sometimes even later.

For instance, in cases when trucks entered the port during the early morning hours, and finished being serviced after 6:30 A.M., the owners of the goods were still charged the 40% premium for work on the official day of rest. The extra charge works out to hundreds of shekels for every shipment.

Sources believe that this practice exists at the Haifa Port as well. In total the ports are thought to have charged millions of shekels a year for Sunday morning “Shabbat” service.

A private importer petitioned the Be’er Sheva District Court against the practice several months ago, seeking to file a class action suit against the Ashdod Port. According to the suit, the port is indeed entitled to charge extra for services provided on days of rest. However, the port is charging these rates on weekdays, too, the suit charges.

By law, the Sabbath and Jewish holidays begin at sundown and end the following evening when the stars come out, notes the suit. Alternatively, a day sometimes refers to midnight to midnight, it states.

In cases when Shabbat or holiday rates extend beyond this, it is ensconced in law, says the suit. The ports have no law permitting them to charge Shabbat rates on Sunday mornings, says the suit.

The port stated in response that the law permits it to charge extra on days of rest in order to cover its costs, chiefly the higher salary that workers receive on these days. It added that Israel’s labor laws mandate giving workers a 36-hour rest period every week. Therefore, workers are paid Shabbat rates until the beginning of the first Sunday morning shift.

The port warned that if the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, government companies would not be able to cover the additional salary expenses for these work hours.

However, judge Geula Levin rejected the port’s argument, stating that there was a reasonable chance that the plaintiff’s position would be accepted by the court.

The port stated in response to TheMarker that it upholds the law.