The Bottom Line / Et Tu, Brutal?

The treasury director-general trying to get the economy back on track and using sharp words. That is brutality. The words, not the actions. So maybe it is worth considering who is really being brutal.

When Finance Ministry Director-General Ohad Marani said a few days ago that the government would consider a "brutal" reaction to strikes, a hue and cry was raised against him. MK Ilan Gillon (Meretz) said he should be fired immediately, while MK Amir Peretz, the head of the Histadrut Labor Federation, said Marani should be formally disciplined for his use of the word "brutal."

When the port workers went on strike, damaging the economy to the tune of NIS 500 million, that wasn't brutal. Peretz supported their strike, just as he is now supporting their opposition to letting Israel Shipyards operate a private cargo unloading port that might compete against them. His position will lead to the dismissal of the shipyard's 550 employees, but that is not brutal.

When striking customs officials forced workers in the private sector to take unpaid leave because necessary raw materials were held up and export commitments could not be met, that was not brutality but honorable protest.

When Labor and Social Affairs Ministry employees go on strike, causing hardship for children at risk, that, too, is not considered brutality.

When the lecturers at the universities go on strike and make life difficult for students, that's okay.

What is not okay? When the government announced three weeks ago that the strike at the ports was over, the chair of the stevedores' committee at Ashdod Port, Avinoam Shoshan, said that the 330 workers he represents would not return to work because the agreement was not in their interest. Shoshan is a member of One Nation, Peretz's party, and was until then considered an enthusiastic supporter of the labor union boss. But that did not help him when he failed to follow orders. He was immediately dumped from his job, without so much as a hearing. That's brutality.

But that's not all. Shoshan is a born and bred politician. His father served for 25 years on the port's assignments committee. And now, all of a sudden, Shoshan has to go back and do some actual physical labor, after having gotten used to the good life on the committee gravy train. Is there no mercy? After all, he has forgotten how to operate a forklift and how to climb into the cabin of a crane. Within a few days, Shoshan broke his arm at work. Now that's brutality.

During public-sector wage negotiations on Monday night, Peretz said the government must commit itself to not laying off any workers. Treasury wage director Yuval Rachlevsky couldn't restrain himself and said: "But you are planning to lay off some 55 people in the Histadrut soon." Peretz went ballistic and the meeting almost blew up. "You won't teach me how to run the Histadrut!" he shouted at Rachlevsky.

Okay, no one wants to teach Peretz anything, but it is appropriate to remind him that the factories laying off the most workers have been Histadrut concerns. Tens of thousands of workers were laid off from Koor, Solel Boneh and Hassneh. The Histadrut itself has let go some 3,000 of its own employees in recent years, and Peretz wants to dismiss 200 more. So, who exactly is the brutal one?