A surprise wildcat strike by Israeli port workers in the state-run ports of Ashdod and Haifa ended on Thursday (28 May) night after a two-day shutdown.
Even though the Labour Court in both Ashdod and Haifa deemed the strike illegal and ordered workers to return to their posts, it took intervention from the Histadrut Labour Federation, an umbrella union for thousands of public sector workers, to reach a deal.
As many as 40 ships were stuck at quays or off the coast waiting to be unloaded on Thursday, as dockworkers protested against the creation of two foreign-run ports.
China’s Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) will operate a private port in Haifa and the MSC subsidiary, Terminal Investment Ltd (TIL), will run a port to the south in Ashdod.
Before the agreement to end the strike was reached, transport minister, Yisrael Katz, said: “The workers made a serious mistake this time. If needed, we will declare a state of emergency and enforce the law on whoever doesn’t follow it.”
The Israeli government claims that the new private ports are necessary to boost competition in the sector where it says that the influence of unions has raised the prices of imports.
The striking workers cited fear that the new facilities would threaten their livelihoods.
SIPG won a 25-year concession for Bayport terminal in Haifa, starting from 2021. Bayport will feature 1,500 m of quay, a 78 ha surface area with a 17.3 m draught and will have an annual capacity of 1.86m teu.
TIL fended off a rival bid from Eurogate to win a 25-year concession to operate South Port in Ashdod from 2021 or 2022, depending on when the facility is completed by China Harbour.