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Ashdod Port union leader steps down after damaging report

Channel 2 investigation accused chairman of nepotism, conflict of interest; Netanyahu says ‘exploitative monopolies’ at ports unacceptable

Alon Hassan (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Alon Hassan (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The chairman of the Ashdod Port workers’ union, Alon Hassan, has stepped down from his role following an investigative report broadcast on Channel 2 Friday indicating he had used his position to promote personal and family interests at the port and in the city.

The Channel 2 report alleged that companies owned by Hassan, who has served as chairman for eight years, receive preferential treatment at the port and that three of his family members landed jobs there. Hassan has denied the claims.

Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini said he welcomed Hassan’s decision. “The Histadrut will continue to stand with the workers regarding the expected negotiations on the future of the ports,” said Eini.

The Finance Ministry’s Government Companies Authority issued a statement Sunday saying its office submitted a report last week written by an external inspector to the Attorney General’s Office on Hassan’s private activities.

“The report brings up worrying questions about the connection between Hassan’s private businesses and the Ashdod Port company, and the potential harm to the port and its clients,” the Finance Ministry said, adding that the issue would be discussed Tuesday during a session with the company’s inspections committee.

The government has said it is determined to reform the country’s ports, aware that it would be waging a battle with strong unions who have wielded control over the ports for years.

“We are not prepared to countenance the unacceptable state of wasteful, exploitative and inefficient monopolies at the ports that exact a high and unnecessary price from Israel’s citizens for goods and products…The monopoly at the sea ports hurts the competitiveness of the Israeli economy and causes a higher cost of living here. We are determined to change this situation and we will change it,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

Chairman of the port’s management union and Hassan’s deputy, Avinoam Shushan, said Sunday that all port workers in Israel stand behind Hassan, adding that it should be clear that the struggle was not really against Hassan at all, but against the workers themselves in the government battle to privatize the ports, according to Walla News.

On Saturday, Labor chairman and opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich — the political leader most associated with labor unions that serve as the party’s support base — lashed out at Hassan on Facebook, telling him to “go home.”

“A fancy house, a pool in the backyard, luxury cars, an abundance of private businesses — some that have mysterious dealings with the port — preferential treatment for family on public tenders, an environment of fear and revenge, the closure of the port for private events; that’s the behavior of a leader of a banana republic, not a union chairman,” wrote Yachimovich.

“Real leaders live among the people, not above them,” she added.

Hassan hit back later on Saturday, calling the Labor Party leader a “coward” and reminding her that that “people like him” helped get her elected in the first place.

She, in turn, retorted that as far as she knew, Hassan was a member of Likud, not Labor.

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