Shipping containers waiting at Haifa port
Shipping containers waiting at Haifa port Israel news photo: Flash 90 / Moshe Shai

An Israeli business owner who deals with North American immigrants says this week's three-day strike by Israeli port workers could have threatened Aliyah.

The strike ended late Wednesday night with about 65 ships anchored along the coast, waiting to load and/or unload their goods at the Haifa and Ashdod ports.

The Histadrut Labor Union and the Finance Ministry settled on a six percent pay raise for the next two years for general port workers. "Second generation" employees (workers hired after approval of the Port Reform of 2005), will also receive an additional five percent in increases over the next 12 months, reaching a total 11 percent pay raise.

Both sides agreed to establish a joint committee to discuss the next level of port reform, including privatization and distribution of shares in the port companies. The deal has yet to ratified by the rank and file, however.

Neil Kummer, CEO of Kef International, commented that port strikes are not good for Aliyah.

In an email sent Wednesday to English speakers around the country, Kummer warned, “These strikes can continue for weeks, and the country loses billions of dollars. Ships, since they can't unload in Israel, unload in Europe or Egypt. If the steamship company declares 'end of voyage,' customers have to pay to get their containers delivered from those countries.”

He went on to explain that those whose belongings had already reached Israel, but had not left the port, are also affected by such a strike. “Those whose shipments are already at the port pay the usual very high storage rates, though they have no way of getting their goods out. Not good for Aliyah. Not good for business.”

 Kummer, himself a North American immigrant, makes a point of sending out informative messages to email lists of English speakers around the country, remembering that “newbies” often forget what they are told when they sign their contracts.