TEL AVIV (Jan. 7)
Transport Minister Shimon Peres said today that the government would seek legal means to end a three-day slowdown by dock workers that has crippled Israel’s seaports at the peak of the citrus export season. As of this morning 47 ships were laying idle at Haifa, Ashdod and Ellat. The picking of citrus fruits was suspended last Thursday as crates piled up on the docks. A continuation of the delay would cause Israel severe economic losses from spoilage and would require citrus exporters to pay stiff penalties for late delivery of the fruit on the European market.
The number of ships waiting to load and discharge cargoes is expected to reach 80 during the coming week but until today no contacts had been made between the dock workers and the Port. Authority or Histadrut. A meeting is scheduled for tonight to try and end the crisis.
Peres said the government would ask the courts to declare the slowdown to be a strike in which case legal penalties could be invoked against the dock workers for staging a strike without giving 15 days’ prior notice as required by Israeli law. In that case the Port Authority could withhold the dock workers’ wages as long as the slowdown continued.