What Does a Port Worker Want? Depends Who You Ask

The longshoremen's strike at Israel's ports continued yesterday for a third day, and it has become apparent that the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut labor federation don't even agree on how much the port workers are demanding. As of yesterday, 65 ships were waiting for the chance to enter the Haifa and Ashdod ports. Eilat port workers are also striking.

ports - Moran Maayan - January 6 2011
Moran Maayan

Tuesday night negotiations involving Histradrut representative Avi Nissenkorn, Finance Ministry wage director Ilan Levin and representatives of the port workers' committees failed to resolve the dispute. The sides met again yesterday, where they were joined by Manufacturers' Association president Shraga Brosh.

Finance Ministry officials claim the workers have hardened their demands with Histadrut backing, and are now saying they want a 15% pay increase spread out over three years.

Treasury officials say this is way out of line compared to the 6.25% increase other public sector workers will be getting over a three-year period. Finance Ministry staff also claim the Histadrut is primarily agitating for higher paid veteran port workers, a contention the labor federation denies.

nissenkorn - Ofer Vaknin - January 6 2011
Ofer Vaknin

Histradrut officials say that, contrary to treasury claims, the workers are demanding a 9% pay raise over three years and not 15%, and that progress in the negotiations has been made with the intervention of Brosh from the Manufacturers' Association.

The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce filed a request with the National Labor Court yesterday seeking a temporary restraining order against Histadrut over the strike. The court denied the request but scheduled a hearing for today over the port strike. The chamber of commerce federation contends that a strike, particularly such a widespread labor action, was inappropriate and was causing huge damage to the economy.

Agricultural exports by the Agrexco firm have not yet been affected. Damage so far from the strike, however, has been estimated at NIS 150 million due to the dockworkers' refusal to load and unload cargo and the inability to release cargo that had been unloaded just before the strike began.

levin - Tess Sheflan - January 6 2011
Tess Scheflan