Moments before the start of a hearing in the National Labor Court, the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) announced the signing of an agreement in principle on an outline agreement for reform at Haifa Port. Histadrut Transport Workers Union chairman Avi Edri said, "We reached agreement on all the substantial issues, and we are asking the court for a month in which to draft the outline." He said negotiations concerning Ashdod Port were still stuck, and that the Histadrut would therefore ask the court to allow it to exercise the right to strike at Ashdod.
Intensive talks on reform at the ports were held over the past two days at the direction of the National Labor Court in Jerusalem, after the sides had failed to reach agreement in the period originally set by the court of 18 days, plus a week's extension.
Histadrut sources said agreement had been reached on a voluntary retirement program. Each worker who leaves under the streamlining program at Haifa Port will receive NIS 2.5-2.8 million, which is more than the workers had demanded. This sum consists of a retirement grant and a bridging pension until age 67. Some 260 workers will leave under the agreement. Those who remain will be guaranteed their jobs for ten years. The workers wanted this period extended to 15 years, but the state was not prepared to budge on this issue.
In addition, according to sources at Haifa Port, it was decided that the port will not invest in massive upgrading of its infrastructure in the next twelve years. In the past, there had been talk of a need for the port to invest NIS 1.5 billion in order to be able to compete with the new port to be constructed. The sides agreed that the port will not deepen its quays and will thereby forego the ability to receive the largest modern ships with capacity of 18,000 TEU. The port does however intend to carry out a more modest upgrade at a cost in the hundreds of millions of shekels. The budget saved will enable the port to finance the voluntary retirement program at the desired level. According to the Haifa Port source, the more extensive upgrade was not really required as the very large ships are not expected to visit the port in the next few years, or if they do, only infrequently.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 5, 2018
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