The Histadrut labor union has called an indefinite strike of dock workers as of Sunday morning. Import and export activities at Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat ports ceased as of 6:00 a.m.

A Maariv report from Saturday indicated that the strike comes after a late-night meeting between representatives of the dock workers, the Histadrut and the Ministry of Finance failed to reach an agreement. The workers’ demand to secure their retirement funds is the main unresolved issue.

According to the Maariv article, the dock workers and the Histadrut claim that the workers’ pension funds are in the ports authorities’ current accounts, and are therefore vulnerable if the ports are caught in financial difficulties. They demand that the pensions be transferred to a separate, secure account until a central pension fund is established. This solution is similar to the resolution of the airport workers’ 2010 strike, which shut down Ben Gurion over similar complaints.

The Histadrut is also demanding an increase in pension contributions from the port authority, and to calculate the increase based on current wages. Currently, pension contributions from the authority are based on 2005 wage levels.

The Ministry of Finance said that “the Histadrut and the ports union are once again using a strike to promote personal interests and to squeeze salary increases at the expense of the taxpayers.”

The Ministry noted that less than two weeks ago the ports signed an agreement that increased the average wage by 3 percent, and that “presenting the current strike as struggling for pension wages is a deception meant to hide the fact that they are trying, again, to extort higher wages.”