Strike shuts Israel’s Haifa port


Workers at Israel's state-owned Haifa Port went on strike on Monday, shutting one of the major trade gateways, over a government plan to build private, competing ports.

“Every hour of the strike causes heavy damage and weighs on Israeli exports and imports,” said Chamber of Shipping vice-president David Castle. His statement said it was not clear when the strike would end.

Nearly all Israel's exports and imports are transported by ship, making the port workers unions among the most powerful in the country.

Tensions have been high in recent years over government plans to open two privately-run ports along the Mediterranean next to Ashdod, which is also state-run, and Haifa in the coming years.

Officials at the umbrella union for public sector employees, Histadrut, were not immediately reachable for comment.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Janet Lawrence

Israel public sector strike headed for third day


Israel’s banks, ports and stock market were closed in the second day of a general strike on Thursday that threatened to drag on for another 24 hours after negotiations between unions and government hit new obstacles.

The strike called by the Histadrut labor federation, an umbrella organization for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, also halted trains and closed Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv for more than an hour.

The Treasury estimated economic damages from the strike as totaling as much as $500 million a day.

Histadrut wants the government to hire about 250,000 contract workers, such as cleaners and security guards, saying their employment conditions are inferior to workers directly on the public payroll.

The Finance Ministry said it cannot take on that many new workers but has offered to improve conditions by raising salaries by at least 20 percent and giving them more holiday.

Talks, which many hoped would settle the dispute, hit problems on Thursday afternoon when the union said Treasury negotiators asked it not to strike again for another four years.

“There is not a chance I would agree to that,” Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini told Israel’s Channel 10 television.

Eini said the strike may stretch into Friday, when most government offices are normally shut. Israel’s air and seaports would operate normally, Israel Radio said.

Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Andrew Heavens

+