Port Workers Stage Wildcat Slowdown

Ashdod port workers have engaged in an unauthorized work slowdown over the past few days. The strike, which is causing delays in unloading ship cargo and other port work, did not receive approval from the Histadrut labor federation. The port's management has therefore asked the Histadrut to intervene and get the employees back to work.

One reason for the labor strife is a dispute between the port's unions and management over physical work conditions. The employees claim that there is a shortage of equipment and that the pace of repairing existing equipment is slow, resulting in lower productivity and slower customer service. Another, unofficial, grievance is worker opposition to the Histadrut's plan to replace the multitude of unions with a single port workers' council. The Histadrut committed to this policy under the port reforms launched in February 2005.

A forum of port users called on cargo ships to stop calling at Ashdod and use other ports instead - primarily Haifa, where there are fewer strikes. Forum president Reuven Tzuk added that the organization would meet in Haifa on Sunday to "decide on operative steps to be taken against Ashdod Port management."

Tzuk also said that "ship and cargo owners cannot base their businesses on a port that is losing its credibility," adding that port reforms oblige the unions to refrain from strikes. The problem, he said, was that reforms did not provide tools "for coping with agreement violations and disruptions by workers."