Economy and Trade Minister promises to break seaport monopoly. ‘It’ll hurt, but it’ll pass,’ says of expected union strikes.
By Moran Azulay
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett is backing the seaport reform and has vowed to “break the seaport monopoly.”
“We’ll release the strangle-hold. We’re engaged in a historic process of opening up Israel‘s economy. The train has left the station,” he said.
Bennett’s statements follow that of Finance Minister Yair Lapid who on Tuesday announced his plans to privatize the state owned ports in Haifa and Ashdod and to support the construction of an additional port by a private entrepreneur.
The Finance Ministry’s plan will see three ports operating on Israel’s western shore, each run by a different investor group, within a decade.
“The current situation makes no sense because all the power is concentrated in one body,” Bennett argued.
“There have been past incidents when dozens of ships didn’t dock because of a minor dispute. These are tens of millions of shekels lost every time.”
The reform, Bennett promises, will change that. “We’ll not be dependent on one company. This isn’t privatization, it’s competition,” he said.
The Finance Ministry’s reform plan is expected to run into fierce opposition from the strong port workers unions, who have threatened that privatization “will mean war.”
But Bennett is unfazed. “When you’re sick, you have to bring into account that to get better you have to go through some stages like an injection at the doctor’s. It hurts, but it passes,” he said.
“True, there will be strikes, but this week we’ve experienced a strike with the open skies agreement, and in the end the State is healthier and better to its citizens.”
Bennett reiterated: “The same will happen here: It will hurt, but it’ll pass.”
Lapid’s reform plan has won the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well, who said that “no strike will deter us,” which prompted the Histradrut Labor Federation to demand immediate negotiations, threatening to use all means at its disposal otherwise.
“We have a collective agreement stating that until 2020 the ports cannot be privatized; it was signed in 2005, and amongst those who signed it are the former finance minister and the current prime minister,” said Avi Edri, the chairman of the Histadrut’s transport workers union.
“Whoever wants to do something unilaterally will lead us to a stance of war,” he warned.
Avital Lahav contributed to this report.
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4372227,00.html