Striking Dock Workers May Be Drafted if Other Means Fail to End Strike

The Cabinet today authorized Transport Minister Shimon Peres to draft striking dock workers at the port of Eilat if other means fall to get them back to work. The strike, which began Friday, has paralyzed the Israeli port on the Gulf of Aqaba and threatens to shut off the flow of oil through the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline. The strikers, who have been joined by workers from other local industries including the oil terminal, walked off their jobs after Israel’s national shipping company, the Zim Lines, announced it was opening a new service to the Far East via the Panama Canal.

The new line would divert Japanese and other cargoes now landed at Eilat to Israel’s Mediterranean ports of Haifa and Ashdod. The workers claimed that the future of the port and of the town was at stake. They denied seeking higher wages. Several tankers in Eilat harbor waiting to discharge their oil cargoes have been prevented by the strike from coming alongside the oil jetty to link up with the pipeline.

Meanwhile, a work slowdown at Haifa port which has delayed the loading of citrus cargoes was extended today to all other cargoes leaving the port. The port workers action was taken in defiance of their own workers’ committee which has opposed the slowdown since it began last week. Several ships waiting for a berth at Haifa were ordered by their owners to sail today leaving behind their Israeli cargoes. The Haifa Labor Council has asked the port authorities and the Transport Ministry to speed up negotiations with the dock workers. Unlike Eilat, the issue in Haifa is wages.

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