Striking Silo Workers Ordered Back to Work

The Haifa regional labor court yesterday ordered striking Dagon Grain Silo workers to return to work. The Haifa silo employees have not been unloading imported wheat and grains or distributing them around the nation for the past two days, demanding a one-time payment of NIS 100,000 each and a 20-percent salary bonus, as was promised to seaport workers.

If the strike continues, it would create a wheat and ultimately a bread shortage. A prolonged strike could also harm agricultural and food service divisions dependent upon grains.

The Haifa regional labor court issued a back-to-work order yesterday at the request of Dagon management. However, work had not resumed by yesterday evening.

Histadrut labor federation representative Yigal Cohen said that the strike was legal because the Histadrut had officially declared the labor dispute, but nevertheless, he called on workers to honor the court order and return to work.

The 80 Dagon workers claim they are eligible for the same sums promised to port workers on the reform of the state-owned ports as their labor contracts are linked to the port workers' contracts. However Chimobil Group and Lo-Gi Trade, the new operators which are set to begin operating Dagon from July 1, announced that they could not fulfill the workers' demands.

Dagon Grain Silos stores 75 percent of the country's imported grains and belongs to the Israel Ports Authority. The Dagon company had leased the silos for 50 years until the Chimobil consortium won the recent tender.

An Israel Ports Authority representative said, "Responsibility for properly operating the silos is in the hands of the current contractor, Dagon. Although silo workers are not port workers, they were also promised rights in the context of the port reforms in coordination with the Histadrut." The representative also called on workers to "respect the court's decision and to return to negotiations with the operators."