December 18, 2018 / 11:22 AM / 10 months ago

Israel, union reach deal on sale and upgrade of Haifa seaport

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows seagulls in Ashdod port as a storm approaches Israel's shores January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel and its main workers’ union signed a deal in principle on Tuesday for the sale of Haifa port in preparation to open it up to competition.

Haifa in northern Israel on the Mediterranean coast is the largest of the country’s three seaports. The state has sought to implement reforms at the port for many years to encourage competition and bring down costs, but the union has resisted.

Under the deal that followed months of talks, a tender will be published within six months to sell the port to a strategic investor to prepare it for competition, the Histadrut labor federation and the transportation and finance ministries said.

The plans include upgrading and deepening the port so it can receive bigger container ships in a bid to boost Israel’s economy. The Transportation Ministry will also open new access routes to allow for equal competition with other ports.

The port agreed to implement efficiency measures that include a voluntary retirement plan and compensation changes.

Histadrut expects a competing port in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, to open in about two years. It also said it expected a similar agreement to be signed with Ashdod, the country’s second-largest port which is in southern Israel.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Edmund Blair

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