Ashdod port employees were on full strike Friday following a refusal on their part to wear reflective vests, contrary to explicit orders by the company’s management — a refusal which led the workers Thursday to halt almost all activity at the port.
The workers’ union representatives announced the full strike Friday following the suspension of two union employees for the refusal. The employees have made clear that they will return to full capacity only when management cancels the suspensions.
The Beersheba Labor Court is set to discuss next week the disruptive measures taken by the employees at the port.
On Thursday, the Israel Port Company management decided to cease loading and shipping of containers after a number of port workers, who originally arrived for work wearing the vests, took them off in protest over management procedure, The Marker reported.
According to the port management, an order to wear reflective vests was given in the year 2000 and was prompted by worker safety concerns.
The port workers, on the other hand, claimed that management had surprisingly put the orders into effect without consulting with the employees. The workers asserted that the orders were nonsensical, and suggested that management had attempted to assert its power at the workers’ expense.
“To this day, for years, we have not worn vests. They are uncomfortable overalls and they’re blinding,” Avi Edry, chairman of the Transport Workers Union, told the Marker.
“Someone is trying to flare up the ports,” he added.
Inefficiency at Israel’s state-owned ports costs the economy as much as NIS 5 billion ($1.42 billion) annually, according to a 2009 government report. Some 90% of the country’s imports and exports pass through the Haifa and Ashdod ports.
On Monday, work at the ports was disrupted for nearly an hour because of a dispute over the replacement of a crane.