Their interest in that privatisation is clear, and it comes down to their intention to break the power of the organized workers. The dock-workers are one of the strongest groups within the Israeli working-class, having in their power the ability to shut down the docks and cause direct damage to the industrialists’ profits.
During the last few years some attacks have been made by the government against workers in attempt to promote the privatisation process. However, they weren’t able to fulfill their aims yet due to the immense resistance shown by workers in past struggles. But, the Histadrut (the Israeli trade union federation) leadership has betrayed the workers struggle, and agreed to the transfer of some part of the output to a private company.
Only this time the bosses and the government have gone till the very end, and after long negotiations with the Histadrut, (where the right-wing trade union leadership has revealed its general acceptance of mass redundancies), the government has passed a new act in the Knesset (parliament) declaring the privatisation of the docks of Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat. This is an unprecedented interference by the government in labour relations and agreements – an attempt to subdue organized labour.
The dock workers have declared an unlimited strike, which was limited by a Labour Court (a court which cooperates with the bosses on the big issues) decree to merely 25% of the output. The workers’ leadership has agreed to show "good faith" and increased that amount to 33%.
While the striking workers understand the importance of their struggle and the practical meaning of privatisation, the leadership of the Histadrut, and probably also some of the shop-stewards, have prepared a compromise in advance. The workers want to have a militant strike, but their leadership is trying to manoeuvre between this and its own wish to compromise with the big bosses.
As it seems now, there will probably be a compromise-deal with the government during the next few days. Amir Peretz, the chairman of the Histadrut, has already announced his acceptance of privatisation as such, and the disagreement now focuses entirely on the conditions by which that step is going to take place. It is probable that the dock workers will have to absorb a deal, falling on them from the top bureaucracy of the Histadrut, without giving them any opportunity to decide on it.
There’s no reason why the dock workers should succumb to the dictats of the government and the capitalists. Privatisation is a death sentence to workers – not only the dockers, but also those in port towns, and a threat to all workers in Israel.
Maavak Sozialisti (CWI in Israel), is acting to get in contact with the most militant workers on the docks. We have explained to them (as well as to sympathrtic shop-stewards) the risks of a sell-out presented by the Histadrut leadership, and call for a militant and democratic strike.