Israeli dockworkers ended a two-day strike on Thursday that had shut down the country’s two main seaports in protest at the creation of new foreign-run ports.
Some 2,400 workers had walked out of the ports of Ashdod and Haifa as union leaders went underground and for most of Thursday defied orders from labour courts to return to their posts. Some 40 ships were left waiting to be unloaded.
Israel’s transport minister had threatened to declare a state of emergency and the workers could have faced criminal charges, before both port workers’ unions agreed to end the strike.
“They will return to work in the coming hours,” a spokesman for Ashdod port told Reuters.
The government, frustrated by labour disputes that have disrupted Israel’s trade arteries for years, signed contracts with two foreign companies on Thursday to operate terminals adjacent to the state-run ports of Ashdod and Haifa.
China’s Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) will operate a private port in Haifa and the Netherlands’ Terminal International Ltd (TIL), owned by the shipping giant MSC, will run a port to the south in Ashdod.
The government says the new ports will lower the cost of goods across the board.
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Ari Rabinovitch and Andrew Roche)