Netanyahu Must Fight Against the 'Steak Incentive'

Seven years ago, when Benjamin Netanyahu was finance minister, he announced a major port reform; now he must press for its implementation.

The social protest erupted over the summer due to anger over Israel's cost of living. The people were no longer willing to pay such high prices for goods and services - higher prices than in Europe or the United States.

One of the main reasons for the situation is the presence here of large government monopolies controlled by the country's biggest workers' committees. Every year, these places are at the top of the list of record public-sector salaries. Some employees earn more than the prime minister.

The most outrageous example is Ashdod Port, Israel's largest port. Half the country's international trade passes through it. Yesterday Sharon Shpurer reported in Haaretz that, after two months of labor sanctions that recently ended, port employees led by the chairman of the operations workers' committee, Alon Hassan, have again been disrupting the port's work and slowing the unloading of ships. All this stems from a dispute over an absurd perk that has come to be known at the "steak incentive."

Two months ago, the Finance Ministry tried to eliminate this incentive in which workers receive restaurant coupons; the cost ballooned to NIS 3.7 million last year. After two months of worker sanctions supported by Histadrut labor federation chief Ofer Eini, the ministry caved in and agreed to replace the steak incentive with a cash incentive. But the workers are not satisfied and have relaunched sanctions.

These steps are causing delays in unloading ships and are costing importers hundreds of thousands of shekels. The importers, meanwhile, are passing the costs onto the consumer, resulting in price increases for almost every product.

Seven years ago, when Benjamin Netanyahu was finance minister, he announced a major port reform: the privatization of several docks, efficiency measures and competition. In return, the port workers received huge salary increases but the reform plan was never carried out. Even now, the workers control the ports and show disdain for port management and the government - and the public is paying the price.

Netanyahu cannot remain silent. He must intervene, halt the sanctions and press for implementation of the reforms. This case, after all, involves a government company for which Netanyahu is ultimately responsible.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: מחיר הסטייקים בנמל