Another phase in the ports’ reform has been accomplished: Histadrut, Israel’s largest labor organization, and the government have agreed to transfer the Port of Haifa Marine Services Department to a new subsidiary of the state-owned Israel Ports Development & Assets Company, which will serve both the new and the existing seaports in the Bay of Haifa.. This shift represents a significant step forward and a historic reform in Israel's ports. Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar David marked the ports reform as one of the organization’s core issues as soon as he took office as chief of the trade union federation.

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Haifa Port.

The agreement was signed on Tuesday, August 27 by Histadrut Chairman Bar-David, Transport Workers Union Chairman Avi Edri, CEO of the Israel Ports Development & Assets Company Shlomo Briman, CEO of the Haifa Port Company Mendi Zaltzman, representatives of the Transport and Finance Ministries, as well as representatives of the docking and towing workers’ committees.

According to the agreement, 110 dockworkers in the existing Marine Services Department will be transferred to the new subsidiary, and all routing and towing of ships in the Haifa Bay – including at the new port – will be performed exclusively by the subsidiary and its employees, until 2054 at the earliest. The agreement guarantees that the new subsidiary is to remain under state ownership and protects it against privatization. This arrangement will enable all ships to enter the seaports and engage with the corporations operating in the area equally.

Trucks at Haifa Port, Credit: Shutterstock.com

 

The parties agreed that the workers’ current employment conditions will be maintained. The parties further agreed that all benefits pledged to the workers under the 2005 Ports Agreement will be handed over immediately upon their transfer to the state-owned subsidiary. In addition, according to the agreement, second generation workers will be provided with employment security for 10 years from the moment the port is opened to competition, and the new subsidiary will establish a sick-leave fund to serve injured workers.

“The historic and unique agreement that we reached through great effort today, will enable the optimization and expansion of shipping within Haifa Bay without hurting the rights and status of the Haifa Port’s Marine Services Department workers,” said Bar-David at the signing event. “I want to thank everybody who took part in the negotiations and I am certain that the new page that we turned here today will prove itself by improving services for the public and all users of the ports.”

A ship unloading at Haifa Port. Credit: Jacob Nachumy, Flash90

Uzi Itzhaki, Chairman of the Israel Ports Company, said: “This is another important step forward in completing the seaports reform, and strengthening the position of the [Israel Ports] Company as landlord. This move will bring more than efficiency and competitive trade – it will bring equal provision of services to new international operators and raise the standard of services for foreign trade.”

Itzhaki added that the agreement requires the approval of the company’s board of directors, and that the Haifa Port Company and the Israel Ports Company must finalize the details of the agreement transferring activity between the companies, including, among other things, the transfer of physical assets involved in Maritime Services Department operations and the remuneration to which the Haifa Port Company is entitled.

“This is an excellent agreement that brings the Marine Services Department workers into the most secure place of employment in the industry today – into a state-owned company that will not be privatized, that will remain in the hands of the public, and will have exclusive control of maritime traffic until 2054,” Histadrut Transport Workers Union Chairman Avi Edri said. “I consider this to be an unprecedented achievement for marine services department workers.”

[The new cranes at the Haifa Port]

Director general of the Transport Ministry, Keren Terner said: “I commend the signing of this important agreement which will enable the equal provision of Marine Services Department operations to all companies operating in the port. By 2021 there will be two new, modern ports competing with the existing seaports, which will significantly improve services for users.”

Finance Ministry Deputy Director of Wages and Worker Agreements, Efi Malchin, added: “We applaud the signing of this agreement and thank the Histadrut for its successful cooperation in bolstering the future of the shipping industry. This agreement is an important milestone in the seaport reform and will provide both stability to the Marine Services Department workers and efficient services inside the Port of Haifa.”

The signing, conducted at the office of Histadrut Haifa District chief Moshe Mizrahi, was attended by Chairman of the Sea Officers Union Avi Levy, Transport Union National Division Director Alon Weiss, Histadrut Pension Department Chairwoman Maya Perry-Alterman, and Attorney Ronen Baharav on behalf of the Histadrut.