Importers Suing Port Workers

Importers argue that they are suffering substantial financial damage.

The Manufacturers Association and Chambers of Commerce are set to launch a lawsuit this morning, claiming that the unions representing port workers are in contempt of court.

Last week the courts ordered the port workers to get back on the job and avoid sanctions until September 21 at least. Until then, the government's resolution to impose structural reforms at the ports would be frozen, the courts ruled.

However, sanctions continued, and importers argue that they are suffering substantial financial damage. Nor are they the only ones feeling the pain: Yesterday truck drivers boycotted the seaports of Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat to protest losses incurred by transport companies because of the sanctions, which can keep drivers waiting for cargo for hours, even days.

"The transport companies are losing hundreds of thousands of shekels a day and demand that the unrest at the ports be stopped," said the Israel Road Transport Board. It said truck drivers would continue to boycott the ports until the situation has been resolved.

Gad Schaefer, chairman of the Israeli Shipper's Council, says that based on information the council has received, the ports are working at 50% to 75% capacity. But even if the ports start working at full steam today, vast damage has already been caused, argues Yosef Haim, founder of a home appliances import company.

He estimates that NIS 200 million worth of appliances have been held up at the ports. And importers have to pay upon shipping, not arrival, he points out.

Ido Solomon contributed to this article